Malaria treatment makes news in Uganda

The Daily Monitor today warns Ugandans about the potential of fake antimalarial drugs in their midst. “According to the Chairman of the National Drug Authority (NDA) Board, Dr Frank Mwesigye, the drugs that are on high demand are the most counterfeited.” Specifically, “Officials at the National Drug Authority, the body charged with ensuring that all drugs coming into the country are of good quality, have now admitted that individuals dealing in counterfeit drugs are maneuvering through the country’s porous borders and selling fake drugs on the local market.”

On the positive side the NDA Chairman “explained that all drugs imports that go through NDA and those manufactured in Uganda are genuine. About 15 per cent of the drugs used in Uganda are manufactured locally.”  Apparently a recent study published in PLoS One stimulated testing by the NDA of 237 different types of drugs, and all were found to be genuine.

NDA staff, speaking to reporters anonymously were not as certain of the effectiveness of the agency and “called for more resources given the additional duties assigned to them. They said they are now required to inspect food stuffs and cosmetics that are imported into and exported out of the country,” in addition to monitoring over 400 pharmacies in the country.

Apparently the NDA believes that most fake drugs would wind up in the private sector. Fortunately patients can make use of quality drugs provided in the public sector through donor efforts like the Global Fund and the US President’s Malaria Initiative, but another story in the Monitor questions whether the country is doing enough:

According to the report released by the UN’s World Health Organisation, expenditure on medicines ranges from $0.04 to $16.30 across least developed countries. Currently, Uganda’s per capita expenditure on drugs is $1.7 (Shs 2771) yet the ideal spending -within in the country’s limits would be $3.7.

Finally, the ability to perform laboratory diagnosis at the Arua Referral Hospital laboratory was curtailed by theft of two microscopes.  “Daily Monitor has learnt that the machines at the hospital are not labelled making it hard for the police to trace them. According to the police, one microscope has been recovered from a casual labourer.”

The lessons from Uganda show that constant vigilance is needed if patients who suffer from malaria expect to receive efficacious and appropriate life saving treatment. It is not enough for donors to provide supplies, commodities and equipment. Each endemic country must have strong infrastructure – both management and regulatory – to protect and deliver these malaria investments.

PS – reminder: We identify and send out news stories and abstracts about malaria on a regular basis. Don’t miss these current issues. Sign up for the emails by clicking HERE.

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