By Taddeo Bwambale
The National Drug Authority (NDA) has raised the fees for licensing and registration of drugs and health service providers, including drug shops and pharmacies.
Gordon Sematiko, the NDA executive secretary in an exclusive interview told the New Vision that the increment was justified to ensure that the authority sustains its operations.
Under the revised fees structure, renewing a licence to operate a retail pharmacy in Kampala's central division costs sh600,000 from sh300,000.
Site inspection costs have also been doubled from sh30,000 to sh60,000 while ascertaining suitability of premises has doubled to sh600,000.
Although the rates are different in other districts and divisions of Kampala, they have also been significantly increased.
"Our operational costs have risen over the years. We have to pay utilities, send inspectors and the cost of reagents for our laboratories have increased," Sematiko said.
NDA is the statutory body responsible for regulation and inspection of drugs, health supplies and facilities.
With limited funding, the body generates its own funds to run its activities.
Sematiko defended the increment in licensing fees saying they had not been doubled in nearly ten years.
Under the new structure, a new license to operate a drug shop costs sh120,000 in Kampala, sh75,000 for municipalities and sh45,000 for drug shops in rural areas.
The same costs apply to renewal of the licence. This, however, excludes costs of inspection and ascertaining suitability of premises.
Registration of human or veterinary products costs $1,250 (about sh3m) while that for herbal medicines is $500 (about sh1.2m).
Analysing drug samples at the NDA lab now costs between $300 (about sh750,000) and $1,000, (about sh2.5m) depending on the nature of the test to be conducted.
Inspection of foreign manufacturing plants costs between$1,000 (sh2.5m) and $6,000, (sh15m) depending on the stage of production, while conducting clinical trials costs between $1,000 (sh 2.5m) and $2,500 (sh sh6.25m).
Fees for operating licences and approval of premises for a pharmaceutical manufacturing plant cost between sh500,000 and sh1.2m.
Health service providers said the increment in licensing charges would affect the price of their supplies.
"The increase in costs will eventually be borne by the client. We are already pressed with rent and financing obligations," said Grace Munyirwa, the proprietor of Vine Pharmaceuticals.
"Although such increment can be justifiable, it is harder to absorb at once, given the uncertainties of the market such as fluctuation in foreign exchange rates and inflation."
Ezra Maggwa, a pharmacist at Family Pharmacy Ltd in Kampala, said the increment would affect his budget.