By Vicky Wandawa
Over 3000 substandard drug outlets countrywide have been closed down by the National Drug Authority (NDA). Frederick Ssekyana, the authority’s publicist said the crackdown on substandard drug outlets commenced in February last year and is still ongoing.
“Most of those we closed were drug shops. The common reasons for closure include operating without a license, lack of qualified personnel, unsuitable premises and carrying out activities they are not mandated to do,” said Ssekyana.
The least qualification of anyone operating a drug shop is nursing and the outlet should only dispense Class C drugs as categorized in the National Drug Policy and Authority Act 1993, third Schedule.
The schedule clearly spells out that drug shops can sell class C drugs for example painkillers, malaria and diarrhea drugs, save for injectables which should only be administered at hospitals or health centers.
However, most of the drug shops that were closed down were carrying out operations beyond their mandate.
“We found drug shops selling Class B and A drugs, admitting patients, and a number of them on drips as other patients awaited injections by the unqualified personnel,” said Ssekyana.
According to the National Drug Policy and Authority Act, its only pharmacies, mandated by the law to dispense all the classes of drugs namely A, B and C, through a qualified pharmacist and only with a prescription from a doctor.
Narcotics and marijuana are some of the examples of class A drugs. These usually are used for pain control in the terminally ill. Class B drugs mainly comprise anti biotics and anti-microbial.
Eastern Uganda worst hit
The largest number of perpetrators was from the eastern districts close to the border between Kenya and Uganda, followed by the western region and Kampala.
“The illegal drug shops in these highly populated places are encouraged by public demand. At the border between Uganda and Kenya, is a busy environment. So when unscrupulous traders notice a gap in service delivery, they are quick to set up substandard drug shops so as to make as much money as they can,” said Ssekyana.
In Kampala, NDA found out that about 55% of the health facilities operate without licenses, especially the class C drug shops and medical clinics.