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MPs want gov't to fund NDA

By Moses Walubiri, Mary Karugaba

Added 23rd March 2016 08:31 AM

NDA raises funds through levying of fees that come in the ambit of its mandate.

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MP Medard Bitekyerezo (speaking) says that the possibility of NDA getting compromised by pharmaceutical companies importing drugs in Uganda should not be ignored. (File photo)

NDA raises funds through levying of fees that come in the ambit of its mandate.

KAMPALA - Lawmakers across a usually fractious political aisle on Wednesday put up a rare show of solidarity in pushing for changes in how National Drug Authority (NDA) is funded to forestall the specter of compromising the health of Ugandans.

Established in 1993, NDA is mandated to ensure the availability, at all times, of essential, efficacious and cost-effective drugs to the entire population of Uganda as a means of providing satisfactory healthcare and safeguarding the appropriate use of drugs.

NDA also plays a role of ensuring access to quality, safe and efficacious human and veterinary medicines and other healthcare products through the regulation and control of their production, importation, distribution and use.

However, NDA, unlike other government agencies in the realm of health is not directly funded by government.

NDA raises funds through levying of fees that come in the ambit of its mandate.

According to NDA spokesperson, Fredrick Ssekyana, these include fees levied on importation of drugs, registration of new products (drugs), inspection of pharmaceutical industries (both in Uganda and abroad) and issuing licenses to pharmacists.

The concern of lawmakers Winnie Kizza, Michael Maranga, Atim Ongom, Dr. Medard Bitekyerezo and James Kakooza is that without government explicitly granting NDA a vote of account (allocating it money in the budget) the entity might get compromised by drugs importers.

The lawmakers were debating the Auditor General's report on health institutions for the year ending June 2010.

"The possibility of NDA getting compromised by pharmaceutical companies importing drugs in Uganda is a reality that should not be ignored. If I want to import fake drugs worth millions of dollars, what stops me from compromising NDA which is in need of money to have these drugs approved," Bitekyerezo, the chairperson Health committee of parliament said.

Bitekyerezo cited the example of a genre of Ceftriaxone, an antibiotic drug imported from India sometime back – allegedly manufactured by a 'ghost' pharmaceutical company called Flamingo.

 "The drug did not have a single molecule and when the Health committee went to India, the authorities denied having a pharmaceutical company with that name (Flamingo)," Bitekyerezo said.

Antibiotics, also called antibacterial, are a type of antimicrobial drug used in the treatment and prevention of bacterial infection. They may either kill or inhibit the growth of bacteria.

However, Ssekyana, although conceding that NDA has no vote of account, mostly keeping its head above the water by using at source fees it collects, says the danger of the entity getting compromised by pharmaceutical companies is fanciful.

"We have an ironclad system in place to make sure that drugs imported into the country are safe and efficacious. We conduct investigations and get dossiers from pharmaceutical companies about their drugs which have to be evaluated," Ssekyana told New Vision yesterday.

Ssekyana also refuted claims by Uganda Cancer Institute (UCI) that NDA lacks capacity to test efficacy of cancer drugs getting imported into the country.

Bitekyerezo told the House that UCI's top echelon had during a recent meeting with the health committee over the mooted Cancer Institute Bill, said NDA has no capacity to test efficacy of cancer drugs.

However, NDA executive director, Donna Kusemererwa later refuted UCI's claim in a later meeting with the committee.

"We definitely have the capacity to test the efficacy of cancer drugs, including the latest line of drugs," Ssekyana said.

There has been a spike in the number of cancer cases, with data at UCI indicating that an estimated 1700 people are diagnosed with the disease every year.  Therefore, any doubts about NDA's capacity to test efficacy of cancer drugs will be grave news.

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