MPs want National Drug Authority to regulate drug prices
By Patrick Jaramogi
Members of Parliament want National Drug Authority (NDA) to regulate drug prices in the country.
The Members of House committee on health made the proposal in a meeting with NDA board and top management at their premises in Wandegeya.
“We have a lot of issues that we need to know as a committee responsible for health. We need to know why for instance the locally manufactured drugs are more costly than the imported ones and why similar medicines are charged differently,” Kenneth Omona committee chairperson asked.
Other members on the committee include Bududa woman MP Justine Khainza, Dr. Lulume Bayigga (Buikwe South), Betty Amongi (Oyam South), Chris Baryomunsi (Kinkizi East) and Aol Betty Ocan (Gulu).
“We need to know why for instance a panadol costs sh500, in some pharmacies, sh1000 in another and 5,000 or 10,000 in some. Why is this so?” asked Omwona.
The NDA board Chairman Dr Sam Zaramba pointed out that locally manufactured drugs were more expensive due to the high costs of production coupled with high power tariffs and water bills.
“The government charges taxes on raw materials used for making these medicines yet the imported drugs are not taxed. So it is very hard to find locally produced drugs cheaper,” said Zaramba.
He said the issue of regulation would be history once the Uganda Food and Medicines Authority comes into place.
“We are lobbying for the formulation of UFMA so as to solve all these problems. The draft has been sent back to cabinet after stakeholders discussed it and we are appealing to parliament to pass the bill fast,” said Zaramba.
The NDA boss Dr Gordon Sematiko said the prices of the drugs can’t be the same because of various brands.
“The price difference on medicines depends on the brand of the drugs. Like Panadol (paracetamol) the original manufacturers of the drug still make it. It also depends on the packaging of the medicine,” said Sematiko.
He however, said NDA is proposing coming up with price control despite the liberalization of the economy. “We can’t start saying sell drugs at this price because Uganda’s economy is liberalised,” he said.
He said local drugs are still expensive because local manufacturers like Rene Pharmaceuticals, Abacus and Quality Chemicals still employ foreign expatriates who are highly paid. “Uganda as a country must start thinking of polishing the human resource to compete for such jobs so as lower production costs,” he said.
Dr Grace Nambatya Kyeyune the director of Research Natural Chemotherapeutics said if the current Bill (Uganda Food and Medicine Authority) that is to be tabled in Parliament is passed, the issue of piracy will be addressed.
Nambatya noted that the Bill will mitigate the issue of costs among the local drug producers. “Most local drug manufacturers want to start herbal lines but the cost of power can’t allow them. But with the Bill we shall have a say to the power regulators,” she said.
Sematiko said the Bill will help NDA handle the products while other firms handle the processes.
But Dr. Hussein Oria, the head of pharmacy at the college of Health Sciences who is also the president of the Pharmaceutical Society of Uganda said regulating the price of medicine was practically impossible.
“Uganda doesn’t have a policy on price regulation. We are operating in a liberalized economy. Those who can afford expensive drugs can do so while those who can’t afford can opt for cheaper ones,” he said.