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Ministry wants local drug makers protected

By Vision Reporter

Added 19th November 2014 01:47 PM

The health ministry has supported the quest by local manufacturers of medicines and other health supplies to be protected from foreign competition to enhance citizens’ access to drugs.

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The health ministry has supported the quest by local manufacturers of medicines and other health supplies to be protected from foreign competition to enhance citizens’ access to drugs.

By Francis Kagolo

The health ministry has supported the quest by local manufacturers of medicines and other health supplies to be protected from foreign competition to enhance citizens’ access to drugs.


“Medicines like Panadol and Septrine can be made and bought cheaply in Uganda but we continue buying them from abroad. It is a shame,” Dr. Asuman Lukwago, the ministry’s permanent secretary noted.

“Local pharmaceutical companies can be given affirmative action in terms of resources and assured market to boost local capacity. Procuring from home is cheaper; it can improve availability of medicines.”

He was responding to drug manufacturers who requested the Government to adopt a protectionism policy in the pharmaceutical sector.

“We (local producers) have a lot of capacity but the country is not utilising it. We have a lot of capacity for most generic drugs. Why do we keep importing them?” Ramesh Babu, the director of ABACUS, one of the local producers of health supplies, asked.

“Unless you give us protection, we shall continue wasting money procuring drugs from abroad,” he added, arguing that continued importation deters investment in the sector.

“Drugs are the same, whether they are manufactured from China, India or East Africa,” Babu noted during the pharmaceutical sector conference at Speke Resort Munyonyo on Monday.

Protectionism is the economic policy of restraining trade between states through methods such as tariffs on imported goods, restrictive quotas, and a variety of other government regulations designed to allow fair competition between imports and goods and services produced domestically.

Dr. Elioda Tumwesigye, the state minister for health, explained that the Government encourages supplies from the local market especially for drugs like ARVs and items like hospital mattresses and cotton wool.

He, however, observed that international regulations and trade agreements ought to be considered before adopting the protectionism policy.

Uganda’s pharmaceutical and medical products sector has witnessed steady growth trends since the 1990s. There are currently over 20 manufacturers producing medicinal products and supplies such as tablets, hard gelatin capsules, injectables, liquid mixtures and surgical gauze among others.

But a 2010 report from the UN Industrial Development Organization (Unido), the country still imports over 90% of its essential medicines and health supplies, mainly from India and China.

At the conference, USAID announced a $30m (about sh81b) donation for a new five-year project aimed at strengthening capacity in the pharmaceutical sector to boost availability of medicines from the current 86%.

The minister urged implementers of the project to exercise efficiency, equity, transparency and accountability for it to achieve the intended goal.

Rosette Mugambi of the Coalition for Health Promotion and Social Development (HEPS) urged stakeholders to focus on empowering citizens to fight vices in the sector including the ever mushrooming illegal drug shops.

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