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Local Pharmaceutical Companies “Not Ready To Fund Medicines Research & Development”

Delegates at the East African Healthcare Federation Conference at Mestil Hotel in Kampala.

Pharmaceutical companies attending the East Africa Healthcare Federation Conference in Kampala have revealed that Uganda’s pharmaceutical sector is still too young to get involved in financing clinical trials, despite this being a trend globally.

John Kamili, the Director Cipla Quality Chemicals company who moderated a session on “Security of Supply: Made in Africa for Africa” at the conference on Friday told journalists on the sidelines of the event that Research and Development (R&D) is an expensive undertaking and companies here have not yet reached the level where they can pump money in a ‘trial and error’ ventures without expecting a return on the investment.

For products made at Cipla such as anti-malarial treatments, anti-viral drugs and lately antibiotics among others, Kamili says the research is centralized in India and they just transfer products tested there to be commercialized here.

He instead said R &D can currently only be possible if they had partnerships with government or researchers in institutions like Makerere University venturing into studies that yield products such as drugs. While he suggests this, Makerere University gets government funding worth Shs30billion annually through the Makerere University Research and Innovations Fund (MAK-RIF) to come up with innovations that can be used to sort the various problems the country faces.

The largest amounts of that money goes to the science –based research with the college of Health Sciences being the biggest beneficiaries but none of the studies so far has looked into developing real drugs to tackle diseases that ravage the country. The only conventional medicine-related studies happening in the country are supported by western pharmaceutical companies.

While sponsoring research by local pharmaceuticals would be possible if the industry grows, companies report struggling to sell medicines manufactured here beyond donors and government. Kamili for instance explains that most of the products manufactured at CIPLA are bought by Global Fund, USAID and the government.

However, at the conference, officials from the Ministry of Health said they are now seeking partnerships with private entities dealing in healthcare-related work so as to develop innovations that can solve Uganda’s local problems.

Dr. Timothy Musila, the Assistant Commissioner for Private Sector Coordination at the ministry urged healthcare providers to use the data available in the country through institutions such as Uganda Bureau of Statistics -UBOS to determine the need and the most suitable investment opportunities.

In her remarks, Health Ministry Permanent Secretary Dr. Diana Atwine said plans to establish the pharmaceutical industrial park are in high gear and this will not only provide a good environment for drug manufacturing but also aid the much needed collaborations for local problems to be solved by local solutions.

The three-day conference was attended by delegates from across sixteen countries in Africa and officials from global pharmaceuticals such as AstraZeneca.


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