Pharmacy owners to NDA: halt irregular deals

Pharmacy owners to NDA: halt irregular deals

Linda Esiana

Pharmacy Owners through their association Uganda Pharmacy Owners Association (UPOA) want Parliament to audit the National Drug Authority activities over what the association describes as irregular deals.

UPOA members who appeared before the parliamentary committee on health on Tuesday to make additional submissions on their issues raised in regard to NDA licensing guidelines, the association claimed that NDA lacks capacity to test vaccines and is instead interested in construction than equipment.

Deo Kalikumutima, the association’s legal counsel said the UPOA was concerned that the funds collected by NDA are used on wasteful expenditure like office construction estimated at shs27b, rent of space estimated at over shs1b despite the authority having its own offices on plot 46 Lumumba avenue.

“National drug Authority has no capacity to test vaccines. This is apparent from the hepatitis B vaccines and its very unfortunate. NDA therefore needs more equipment and not office or laboratory space,” Kalikumutima said.

“If they had the necessary equipment, they would have tested hepatitis B vaccines out there. Construction projects should be put on hold and resources put on getting equipment for testing vaccines and enhancing capacity of NDA,” he added.

The pharmacy owners’ concerns follow recent media reports that NDA is investigating private hospitals and clinics allegedly selling counterfeit hepatitis B vaccines in Mbarara, Kampala and Mbale.

UPOA also faults the NDA for charging exorbitant verification fees, arguing that it has led to high costs of medicine and overdependence on pharmacy owners.

“NDA should relocate back to its office to save costs until an appropriate time when court cases are disposed off and no further contract renewals made for rent of the office premises,” Kalikumutima noted.

UPOA argued that conflict of interest was also responsible for the NDA’s failure to curb mushrooming illegal drug shops hence causing unfair competition with pharmacies.

“NDA continues to allow both illegal and unlicensed drug shops to exist in less than 1.5km existing pharmacies; we note that NDA has put little efforts to curb the mushrooming illegal drug shops and has put most of its focus on pharmacies,” Kalikumutima said.

UPOA also noted that NDA’s ban on opening pharmacies in Kampala has only applied to stand-alone pharmacies while hospitals are allowed on open pharmacies within the guidelines for new pharmacies.

“Medical centers including that owned by the NDA chairman, Dr. Medard Bitekyerezo continue to operate illegal drug outlets in contravention of the NDA guidelines for new pharmacies,” Kalikumutima said.

NDA guidelines are to the effect that all pharmacies in private hospitals, medical centers and other institutions must apply for licensing.

UPOA named medical centers operating illegal pharmacies, including Doctor’s clinic on Entebbe road, SAS Entebbe road, Mbarara medical specialist clinics owned by NDA chairperson, Dr. Bitekyerezo, Le memorial medical services, Victoria medical services on Julia Sebutinde road, International medical center among others

Others include Uganda medical centre, Entebbe branch, St. Benedicts Hospital, Kampala medical chambers and Benedict’s medical centre- Luzira, which is also said to be smuggling, drugs from Italy.

The committee will meet NDA officials on Wednesday to respond to the issues raised by pharmacy owners.