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National Drug Authority In Trouble Over Shoddy Deals

Uganda’s National Drug Authority (NDA) has been named in shoddy deals that are threatening the heath sector.

In their petition to the Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga on Thursday at Parliament, pharmacy owners under their umbrella body, Uganda Pharmacy Owners Association (UPOA) want Parliament to have an immediate investigation and audit into the dealings of NDA.

The group that was led by Deo Kalikumutima, the Association Legal Counsel revealed a number of grievances, with the proposed ban by NDA of new pharmacies in Kampala and major municipalities top on the agenda.

“The entire establishment of National Drug Authority that is the Board and the technical arm should be investigated and audited as well as the dealings of Dona Kusemelerwa, the Acting Secretary of the Authority,” Kalikumutima said.

Pharmacy owners claim that NDA operations have been hijacked by curtail owners who dictate the Authority’s policies to push out other pharmacy owners out of business with ambiguous guidelines.

Parliament has been called upon to investigate NDA’s double standards where numerous clinical facilities stockpile medicines illegally and without NDA licenses, but nothing is done to curb the situation.

It should be noted that last year NDA said it won’t license opening of any new pharmacy in Kampala and other Municipalities, arguing that the urban towns have enough pharmacies, therefore no need for new ones.

However, pharmacy owners claim that the move will not only hinder growth of pharmaceutical services, but also deny access to medicines to thousands of Ugandans.

“This we believe will only move towards hindering access to pharmaceutical services by the population of Uganda. NDA is obligated to explain and provide evidence on how the above provision will streamline distribution of pharmaceutical outlets and pharmaceutical services in Uganda,” Kalikumutima noted.

The Pharmacy owners are also protesting the new move by NDA to implement the new dual licensing where the Pharmacy owners are being required to hire two pharmacists if they are to indulge in both retail and wholesale business of drugs.

The petitioners argue that the move is inconsiderate and contravenes the rules of natural justice since pharmacy owners have not been given a fair hearing.

Pharmacy owners also say NDA charges them high verification fees that have led to high costs of medicines as these costs have to be transferred to the patients.

Among the taxes highlighted is the 20.5% on every 55 drugs as well as 6% withholding tax paid to URA and the 2% verification fees paid to NDA.

The Pharmacy owners say the situation is worsened by the failure of Government to fund the activities of the Authority.

Additionally, NDA is being blamed for failure to curb the mushrooming illegal drug shops around pharmacies; a practice the pharmacy owners say is causing unfair competition.

“We request for an urgent resolution of the matters to avert the looming one month strike by Pharmacies during which they intend to close their pharmacies and stop the importation and supply of medicines to the public but also seek legal action and removal of NDA board,” Kalikumutima said.

Kadaga wondered how NDA would halt licensing of new pharmacies in a free market economy like Uganda.

She pledged to protect rights of Ugandans and promised to refer the matter to the Parliamentary Committee on Health.

Efforts by Business Focus to get a comment from NDA on the above allegations were futile by the time of publishing the story.

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