GPO board sacks director amid drugs shortage complaints

GPO board sacks director amid drugs shortage complaints

The Government Pharmaceutical Organisation (GPO) board yesterday terminated the contract of director Suvaj Siasiriwattana on the ground of inefficient management.

Public health activists led by the Thai Network of People Living with HIV/Aids stage a mini-rally outside the Government Pharmaceutical Organisation on Rama VI Road yesterday, demanding the GPO find a solution to the shortage of life-saving medicines for HIV-infected patients as well as for patients living with chronic diseases. Apichit Jinakul

A source at the Public Health Ministry said the termination will be effective in 30 days and Mr Suvaj will receive six months' salary in compensation.

The director's management allegedly resulted in a shortage of medicine for patients, the source said.

The termination came after eight health networks pressured the GPO board to come up with solutions to a shortage of medical supplies for patients with HIV and chronic conditions.

About 20 health activists, led by Apiwat Kwangkaew, president of the Thai Network of People Living with HIV and Aids, handed a letter to the GPO board chairman Lt Gen Supakorn Sa-nguanchartsornkrai, demanding swift action to solve the drug shortage and investigate Mr Suvaj for alleged corruption and mismanagement.

Previously, HIV/Aids patients had received the antiviral drug Efavirenz for a period of three months, he said, adding the amount had gradually decreased to 30 days, then 15 days and is now only seven days.

In some hospitals, patients are given only a prescription to buy the drugs themselves.

"There are about 100,000 patients who need Efavirenz and the current situation increases the risk of drug resistance in patients," he said.

Work has started on a drug factory in Pathum Thani's Rangsit area which is likely to open in February next year. It should help overcome the shortage, he said.

"However, the GPO must be reformed to solve the problem permanently. Evaluation of how well the director is doing his job at the GPO is also needed as earlier promised. The director's mismanagement and inefficiency harm the lives of patients," Mr Apiwat said.

The board has known about the network's demands since August, but the problem has not improved, he said.

Supatra Nakapew, spokeswoman of the People's Health Systems Movement, agreed the drug shortage has affected the quality of life of HIV/Aids patients as they have to take leave every week to go to hospital to receive antiviral drugs.

Medicine for curing patients with chronic conditions such as diabetes and hypertension as well as Clopidogrel, which was used to prevent blood clots, also were in short supply, again caused by the GPO's poor management.

"If we buy Clopidogrel from a private firm the price will soar from 3 baht to 30 baht per tablet," she said.

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