Expiry Tracking: An Essential Tool for Pharmacists

Nov 2, 2021

Chisenga Mabeti, Pharmacist at Chipata Central Hospital in Chipata district, Eastern Province

“You know that field in the electronic logistics management system (eLMIS) Facility Edition (FE) that asks us to enter product batch numbers and expiries when the facility receives products? It has made tracking product expiries easier,” says Chisenga Mabeti, a pharmacist from Chipata Central Hospital in Eastern Province. “We frequently depended on physical counts to refresh our memories on product shelf life and which products expired when. Being able to observe these data every day while issuing items allows us to plan redistribution ahead of time.”

Chisenga, like many other pharmacists around the country, has been using eLMIS FE tools like expiry tracking to account for stock at her facility and arrange product redistribution in advance

“We’re constantly in contact with other pharmacists via the many provincial and national WhatsApp groups, so we keep each other informed about what product is available for redistribution,” says Chisenga. “Just recently, we were able to redistribute a few goods, including atropine sulphate, to the University Teaching Hospital in Lusaka.”

According to Chisenga, it has become common practice for pharmacists to screenshot stock status reports from the system and post them on the pharmacy WhatsApp groups. “Most times we find ourselves bartering. For example, if my facility has a short-expiry antibiotic in excess and we are running low on test kits, I will post this information in the group and another facility in need of that antibiotic will easily request it. If it or another facility has an excess of test kits or test kits about to expire, it can offer them to us.”

Funded by the United States Agency for International Development and the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, the eLMIS, Zambia’s health logistics system of choice, has evolved steadily since its inception in 2014.

This has included improved supply chain efficiency, data accuracy, and transparency, and more recently, a spike in data use in the supply chain. As a result, the USAID Electronic Supply Chain Management Information System (eSCMIS) project has been mandated to transform the eLMIS into the next generation. This mandate includes the introduction of user-friendly analytics to build a more data-conscious culture and promote data-based decisions that create value in the supply chain. One such enhancement in this transformation is product expiry tracking.

“Tracking product expiries not only works for transfers among facilities we are in communication with,” says Chisenga. “Every time we receive a drug from Zambia Medicines & Medical Supplies Agency, we can send it back if we have it in excess or if the drug they sent will not be consumed before it expires. “

With readily available data, health products are easily accounted for. As a result, the country is seeing significant reduction of expiries. In addition, these data-based decisions improve supply chain efficiency.