The SA Health Products Regulatory Authority is “engaging” with tourism minister Lindiwe Sisulu’s office on her comment that she secured cancer medicine for the late ANC stalwart Jessie Duarte from Russia.
Sisulu made the comment after Duarte’s death from cancer on Sunday. She described the ANC deputy secretary-general as “an outstanding woman” who had been part of her family, adding her passing left a deep personal wound and a void in her life.
“The SA Health Products Regulatory Authority (Sahpra) has noted the numerous media articles on the statement made by minister Sisulu, having secured medicine for the late Jessie Duarte. To this effect, Sahpra is looking into the reports in the media and is engaging with the minister’s office,” the authority said in a statement.
There are strict rules on the import and export of medicines. Legislation prescribes that only a SA registered company that is licensed by Sahpra can import medicines registered by the entity into the country.
While there are numerous oncology medicines that are registered by the authority and are available in SA for a range of cancers, Sahpra said it does have a mechanism to enable authorised access to specific quantities of the product for a specific patient if a treating oncologist needs to secure an unregistered medicine for a patient.
Sahpra said it reviews the application and makes a decision within three working days.
“In the event that a medicine that is not registered in SA is to be accessed, the guideline on importing and exporting of medicines states explicitly: ‘No person shall order any medicine from abroad for personal use unless Sahpra has granted the said person an authorisation in terms of section 21 of the Medicines Act’,” the statement read.
The act also stipulates that any person entering or departing the country may only be in possession of a specified quantity of a schedule 3, 4, 5 or 6 substance for personal use, subject to a valid prescription.
An emotional Sisulu speaking outside the house as Duarte’s remains left her home said she was an “outstanding woman who was principled, driven and stood her ground”.
“I had cancer, my brother had cancer, my husband passed away from cancer, so I wanted to go and learn and I have found a new treatment. I did not put it in my pocket, it’s in my head. I brought in my mind a new medicine that we could try on Jessie,” Sisulu told Weekend Argus.
“I didn’t put it in my bag as it’s administered by doctors, I’m not a doctor,” she said, adding that it was Russia’s minister of tourism who invited her there.
“I was trying to look at the efficacy of their (cancer) medication as they have an excellent facility there, all based on nuclear. I’m a cancer specialist myself, so I needed verification of the effects and side-effects of the medication to see if it works.”
“Somebody came to me while I was in grief. I didn’t sit down and write a thesis, I was speaking my mind. So anyone who is misinterpreting it is doing it deliberately and I will not entertain it, they can go to hell, they can go to the courts if they want to, I don’t care,” Sisulu said.
She added: “I’m on a campaign to make sure we can get over cancer, I’ve been there, my whole family has been there. I wanted to refer Jessie to that facility, but it was too late.”
Sisulu said Duarte, was “almost part of our family”, as her mother Albertina had hired her in 1979 as her aide.