South Africa launches manhunt for importer of 10-million doses of illegal chloroquine into the country
London, May 22, 2020 (AltAfrica)-South African has launched a manhunt for the importer of popular malaria drug, chloroquine allegedly into the country illegally
The illegal importation more than 5-ton (10 million doses) of the malaria drug was uncovered by a leading South African news portal, eNCA
The medication is touted as a treatment for COVID-19.
But its effectiveness has not been proven – nor has it been registered to treat the disease in South Africa.
What’s even more concerning is that the final destination of the medication is unknown.
Chloroquine has been used globally for more than 50 years to treat malaria.
Researchers – including some in South Africa – are investigating its effectiveness in treating COVID-19.
It’s now alleged that about 10-million doses of the drug have been smuggled into the country.
eNCA reports that it has seen documentation which reveals two consignments -of 2,6 tons each – arrived Johannesburg last month.
The haul is estimated to be worth about R40-million rand and is enough to treat about 400,000 patients.
Balmoral Norse – a company registered as operating in the aviation industry – is listed as the allege importer.
When eNCA contacted its sole director, Dave Avnit, he was surprised.
He committed to investigating the matter further but he has since been unreachable.
According to the report, the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority has no record of the company.
“Internally, we did our investigation, we could not see the company on our list of companies that are licensed by SAHPRA. Let’s involve SAPS to further look into the matter,” said Mlungisi Wondo, from the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority.
According to records, the exporter is an Indian Pharma Enterprises.
The company has a very limited online presence, but business listing sites reveal the company employs only 15 people.
The regulator is also in the dark.
“If this chloroquine was going to be imported from that specific company in India, it would have been working with a licensed local company. That means that the company would have applied to SAHPRA to have that specific site inspection,” said Wondo.
The whereabouts of the medication is not known to the authorities.
The Health Department’s Popo Maja confirmed the government had not ordered the consignments.
He’s added that the drug has not yet been approved for the treatment of COVID-19.
With all the additional requirements imposed by the lockdown regulations – it could not have been easy.