Albinos Claim Creams are Short-Supplied


By Surihe Gaomas WINDHOEK Fabupharm Namibia and the Namibia Pharmaceutical Society have allayed fears by the Albino Association of Namibia over recent claims of “half-filled” sun-protection cream tubes produced locally by Fabupharm Namibia, based in Otjiwarango. President of the Albino Association of Namibia, Joseph Ndinomupya, said this week that people afflicted with albinism feel cheated over what they claim are half-filled cream tubes from Fabupharm, especially the 200 millilitres 30-Plus Sun-Protection Creams. “We are not happy that our government is buying these half creams from Fabupharm and at expensive prices. Why should government pay a lot of money for half-filled tubes? We humbly request government to stop buying from Fabupharm,” said Ndinomupya. It transpires that, while the bottom half of the tube is filled, the top half feels like it contains only air, raising questions about why this is the case. He added that even though they receive these creams free of charge as a donation from government, it is government at the end of the day that purchases half-filled tubes. “One of these creams can cost between N$110 and N$120 for a 200ml tube at a pharmacy. So we have now decided to buy from PEWA Hair and Skin Products instead, which is much cheaper,” added Ndinomupya. According to him, the problem of these half-filled tubes was noticed by the Albino Association of Namibia two years ago, and since then nothing has been done to address the concerns of Albinos who are the majority users of the product. In 2005, the Albino Association brought the problem to the attention of Dr Peggy Emvula of the Oncology Department in the Ministry of Health and Social Services. She said she approached the pharmacists involved in the packaging of the creams at the ministry, but to date she has not received any response. “I took up the issue with the chief pharmacist requesting that it be taken up with Fabupharm, and I wrote a letter but I have received no reply until now. This case had to do with the 100-millilitre creams,” explained Dr Emvula. At that time, people with albinism were crying foul over the mexenon skin creams supplied by the Ministry of Health and Social Services, saying that the contents were only a portion of what was displayed on the tubes. People suffering from albinism in the north further complained that the 100-millilitre mexenon tubes contained only 30 millilitres of the cream itself. Suspicion was therefore high as to where the rest of the cream content could be. Now two years later, a similar situation has cropped up. However, it turns out that there is a valid reason as per information provided by Fabupharm Namibia and the Pharmaceutical Society of Namibia. Allaying the concerns, the vice-president of the Pharmaceutical Society of Namibia, Kim Dreyer-TrÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚©, said it is not that the tubes are half-filled with the contents they are supposed to contain, but that the tubes are made slightly bigger for marketing purposes. In fact, the tubes still do contain the stated millilitres as written on the tube itself. ?Companies do this for marketing purposes. It displays better on the shelf; it is more attractive for the buyer and it makes the product much easier to find on the shelf, and the packaging is better. But the content is the same as depicted on the tube,? explained Dreyer-TrÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚©. Echoing the same sentiments, Fabupharm Namibia’s administration and procurement manager, Vikus Kruger, said the reason why the sun-protection creams are packaged that way is that “there needs to be some air left inside the tube to make it easier for the cream to come out.” He said that this is not the first time such a query has come to the company’s attention. In the past there were also public queries about creams and jars that looked half-filled, but the fact of the matter is that the contents remain the same. Fabupharm Namibia, which operates locally, produces a wide range of 140 different products which are bought on tender by government and various other suppliers for distribution.