By Francis Kagolo
Uganda is to start exporting antiretroviral (ARV) drugs in the region, officials have announced.
This comes after the Kenya Pharmacy and Poisons Board (KPPB) awarded Luzira-based ARV manufacturer, Quality Chemicals factory a certificate for good manufacturing practice (GMP).
Kenya's certification follows that of the UN World Health Organization (WHO) which authorized the company to sell its drugs to any part of the world.
“The KPPB certification allows us to export our medicines to Kenya. We are going to start this month [July],” said George Baguma, the company's chief commercial officer.
He was addressing the top leadership of the Inter-Religious Council of Uganda (IRC-U), consisting of archbishops and sheikhs who toured the factory over the weekend.
According to Baguma, Tanzania's Food and Drugs Administration (TFDA) also inspected the plant and is yet to issue certification.
“We have completed registration in Rwanda and Burundi. We are waiting for their bodies in charge of drugs to come and inspect the plant so that we can also export there.”
East Africa has millions of people living with HIV who need ARVs.
Besides ARVs, Quality Chemicals also produces Lumartem, an anti-malarial drug. It currently produces six million tablets a day.
However, given the widening market, they are to put up a second plant which will increase the capacity to 24 million tablets every day. The plant will be ready in one-and-a-half years, Baguma said.
Other innovations include producing bi-layer ARV tablets which will reduce the burden involved with consuming ARVs from the current two to three tablets daily to just one.
This is in line with the latest technology in the developed world like US and Germany where only one ARV tablet is enough for a day.
Northern Uganda Catholic archbishop, John Baptist Odama commended the innovation, saying it would improve people's adherence to taking ARVs.
“Failure to adhere to the doctors' instructions concerning the number of times one is supposed to consume ARVs is what mainly causes early HIV/AIDS-related deaths. Any plan to reduce the number of tablets one is supposed to take is welcome,” said Odama.
“This is a great achievement. You have done us proud as Uganda,” added Odama, and urged other clergymen to be the company's advocates whenever they travel abroad.
During the tour, the clerics were mesmerized by the high emphasis placed on quality and sanitation in the Kampala-based factory, which even involves denying the smallest of insects entrance into the plant.
Samuel Opio, the company pharmacist explained that each of the products goes through 250 tests by the time it reaches the packing line.
“We are not demand-driven. We are mostly quality-driven. If you produce substandard drugs, you may close soon. We cannot mortgage our long-term benefits with short-term demand requirements,” said Baguma.