WHO officials in the country to review NDA drugs handling processes

By Alice Lubwama
A team of experts from world health organization is in Uganda for five days to conduct an assessment of the regulatory system of National Drug Authority.

The sixteen man team headed by Sillo Hiiti will assess the registration of drugs and variation of registered products, check on the Inspection and licensing of pharmacies, drug shops and local pharmaceutical manufacturers.

The team will also benchmark on how Uganda National Drug Authority has dealt with those who do not comply with the required standards, and how inspection of consignments of pharmaceutical products at ports of entry into Uganda such as Malaba, Busia, Nakawa and Entebbe is done.

They will assess how the regulatory body controls clinical trials, publications and advertisement relating to drugs.

They will be looking at the system used by National Drug Authority to monitor the quality and efficiency of drugs on the market and how samples from ports of entry into Uganda, pharmacies, drug shops and confiscated drug products are tested.

The head of the assessment team Siilo Hiiti noted that the objective of the assessment is not to only to identify the gaps for improvement but will also recommend the good practices National Drug Authority has in place.

He affirms that the assessment exercise has been done in other countries including Rwanda, Tanzania, Ghana,Nigeria and Uganda is the fifth country in the continent to be assessed.

Launching the exercise, the chairman board Uganda National Drug Authority Dr Medard Bitekyerezo asked the assessment team not to leave any stone untouched since the authority staffs is well facilitated to do the work.

Bitekyerezo said if a wonderful audit of the system is made by WHO, it will give them a room for improvement.

“Let truth come out because a very wonderful audit will give us information that we are not doing well and this gives us room for improvement.’’ Bitekyerezo said

The executive secretary National Drug Authority, David Nahamya said that it is an honor for the authority to be subjected to an international assessment by experts drawn from other National drug regulatory agencies and WHO experts globally to alert them on gaps they need to work upon and attain regulatory excellence.

Nahamya has also applauded World Health Organization for the continued support in terms of laboratory equipment, training of its staff, hence the excellence of the Authority.

Five journalists held for alleged illegal possession of classified drugs

By Robert Segawa

Police is looking for NBS journalist Solomon Sserwanja to help them in investigations over buying classified government drugs.

Addressing journalists at Central Police Station, Kampala Metropolitan Police spokesperson Patrick Onyango said the three journalists were buying classified government drugs in Makindye division. He said security agencies later swung into action arresting them journalists and their driver.

According to Onyango, on arrest the journalists confessed to having more boxes of drugs stored at fellow journalist Solomon Sserwanja’s home in Mukono. “We went to his home for a search and found 14 boxes of Lumefantine, vaccines for hepatitis b and other drugs,”Onyango said. He added that on summoning Sserwanja last night he refused to turn up on time forcing police detectives to cordon off his home until today morning.

Onyango adds that police used warrant card in presence of local council 1 together with Sserwanja ‘s wife Vivian Nakalika.

He also adds that after carrying out search both local council one and his wife managed to sign on form before drive them to central police station. He further says that,although the journalists were doing an investigative story they never informed police to provide them security.

Onyango identified identified the suspects as Kassim Mohammed of BBC, Shafiq Kasame, Badebya Godfrey, Rashid Kawesa a driver and Vivian Nakalika.
He adds that the five ( 5 ) will appear in courts of law on charges of illegal possession of classified drugs.

Robert Ssempala the Director Human Rights Network for Journalist (HRNJ) condemned Uganda Police Force for searching a home of Solomon Sserwanja who was gathering information pertaining the top government officials in National Medical Store who are involved in selling off government drugs illegally.

National Drug Authority impounds fake cancer drugs on Ugandan market

National Drug Authority (NDA) has impounded packages of unregistered and counterfeit cancer medicines that are being sold on the Ugandan Market.

The drugs include Avastin (bevacizumab), a first line drug in the treatment of ovarian cancer and Sutent (sunitinib malate), a medicine often used to treat progressive tumors of the digestive system, the pancreas, and the kidneys. The drug interferes with the growth and spread of cancer cells in the body.

Although the genuine Sutent drug is supplied only as hard gelatin capsules, the fake product is presented as bluish – grey tablets, according to the NDA warning. The genuine Sutent drug is manufactured by Pfizer, a U.S based Drugs Company. However, the counterfeit is labeled as made in Sweden.

Similarly, the Avastin drug which is supplied as an injection for intravenous,  has been counterfeited and presented as bluish-grey tablets.  The genuine drug is manufactured by Roche, a pharmaceutical firm based in Germany and Switzerland while the counterfeit Avastin, is labeled as made in Sweden.

“The containers for both drugs claimed to be “Made in Sweden AstraZeneca 2014,” The statement by NDA  shows.  AstraZeneca is a UK based firm which recently sold its antibiotics business to Pfizer.

However, containers of the counterfeit products have wrong spellings of the name AstraZeneca in some places spelt as “AstraZenaca” and group as “grroup”. Astrazeneca and Turbuhaler are trademarks of Astrazeneca group of companies.



Two hospitals in Bunyoro have not disposed expired drugs in three years

Two hospitals in Bunyoro sub region are stuck with expired drugs that have not been disposed of for almost three years.

The expired drugs are in Masindi General Hospital and Kagadi General Hospital in Masindi and Kagadi districts respectively.

The issue of the expired drugs came onto the spotlight in the Auditor General’s report of the financial year 2015/2016. Auditor General John Muwanga asked why expired drugs were dumped in an open space at  Masindi General Hospital something that may cause danger to human beings.

A similar query was raised again at Kagadi General Hospital in the then Kibaale district where expired drugs were found in the store and the hospital administration cited lack of transport to take them away for disposal.

The Auditor General advised the two hospitals to liaise with the National Medical Stores-NMS to find ways of collecting these expired drugs.

Last week, Parliament’s local government accounts Committee sent away the officials from the current Kibaale district led by John Nyakahuma, the Chief Administrative Officer, because they were unable to answer for Kagadi Hospital which is now in the newly created Kagadi district. By the time of the audit, Kibaale has not yet been split into three to create Kagadi and Kakumiro districts.

The committee chaired by Aswa County MP Regan Okumu ordered the officials to appear at the next convenient review meeting together with the former CAO of Kibaale, the district health officer of Kagadi and the Medical Superintendent of Kagadi hospital to explain how they have handled the expired drugs.

Dr. James Olowo, the Medical Superintendent of Kagadi hospital has confirmed to URN that the expired drugs are still in the hospital but declined to explain what action has so far been taken.

Dr. Olowo, who doubles as the District Health Officer for Kagadi district, also declined to reveal the value and description of the expired drugs saying he would be pre-empting the explanation he is set to give to the parliamentary committee when invited.

In Masindi hospital, Dr. George Bateganya, the medical superintendent confirmed to URN that there were drugs and disposables tins that were found dumped in an open place by the auditors.

Dr. Bateganya reveals that the hospital had burnt those thought to be less harmful. He says that the said drugs that weigh less than 10kg were ruminant supplies for the Ebola isolation centre that was at the hospital when the deadly virus struck the country.

Now, the medical superintendent says that the Masindi district council is planning to contact the national drugs incinerator in Nakasongola district.

Dan Kimosho, the spokesperson of the National Medical Stores-NMS when contacted told URN that it is not their mandate to collect expired drugs in health facilities they supply to.

Kimosho says that the NMS has been seeking at least 300 million Shillings to be used in collecting expired drugs and incinerating them saying they have only done it to a few hospitals as part of social responsibility.




Mairungi growers want Court to halt ban since plant has been listed as a drug

Khat (mairungi) growers in Wakiso District have petitioned the Constitutional Court, seeking an interim order blocking the Internal Affairs Minister from making regulations listing the plant as a prohibited drug.

The farmers under their umbrella organisation of “Wakiso Miraa Growers and Dealers Association Ltd”, claim that the disputed act intended to prohibit the growing of mairungi is not backed by scientific evidence proving the plant as a  narcotic drug.

Their petition follows the enactment of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Control) Act, 2014, which outlaws the growing of the crop in Uganda’s territorial boundaries.

The law stipulates that any person found in possession of narcotic drugs or psychotropic substance commits an offence and is liable to a fine of not less than 500 currency points (10 million Shillings) or three times the market value of the drug  on conviction

The offenders under the law, passed last year, could also face a jail sentence of up to ten years.

But the farmers say that since the enactment of the act, the minister has neither consulted them, nor publicly announced modalities to guide consultations before regulations are made. Subsequently, the farmers argue, that the move to blacklist khat as one of the prohibited plants will disrupt their livelihood.

“The absence of government plan for stakeholder consultations… has thus confirmed-that the minister, police and the prosecuting bodies have deliberately kept their law enforcement plans to themselves so as to subject them to uncertain, secret, exclusion and draconian disruptive law enforcement action” reads in part the suit

They add that police and other security agencies have routinely carried out law enforcement operations in Kasenge, Wakiso District, Kisenyi in Kampala City and other places where mairungi growing and dealing are predominantly carried out under the misguided view that these activities are already banned.

They now contend that unless a court order is issued, the government intends to continue with the operationalization of the law  by making laws that will determine the enforcement day for the prohibition of growing and dealing in mairungi and permit unmitigated infringement on the rights and livelihoods  of people who depend on the growing of this crop.

Khat is a flowering evergreen shrub often chewed with gum.

The World Health Organisation classifies khat as a drug that can produce mild to moderate psychological dependence. According to research, chewing khat is the most prevalent form of drug abuse across the East African region.

Various medical reports have indicated that chewing khat, also known as miraa in some parts of the world, leads to increased energy levels, alertness, confidence and mood elevation. The plant contains many different compounds that could trigger acute cardiovascular effects while prolonged use has been linked to insomnia.





Fortportal Hospital puts strict regulations to stop drug theft

Fort Portal Regional Referral Hospital has set up measures to curb drug theft.  The hospital has set up a pharmacy for in-patients that will distribute drugs to the patient’s wards.

Grace Rubale, the Principal Hospital Administrator explains that from the pharmacy, the drugs will then be supplied to the patients only on request by the in-charge of the ward and with proof of a patient’s medical file.
Rubale, says that the new system will help ensure accountability of the drugs that have been supplied to the hospital by the National Medical Stores-NMS.

She explains that in the past, medical workers were being given drugs in large quantities to distribute in wards, which created room for theft.

Dr. Charles Olal, the Director Fort Portal Regional Referral Hospital says that the hospital has in the past lost anti-retrovirals (ARVs) and Coartem, which affected service delivery to patients.   He says the drugs are resold on the open market at a cheaper cost.

According to a report compiled by the State House Health Monitoring Unit, the theft of drugs is the key reason that has kept health facilities across the country in perennial lack of drugs, notwithstanding the fact that drugs are always supplied.

The report implicates health workers for diverting the drugs to private clinics and drug shops, which has retarded the delivery of health services. The report also notes that health workers are either accomplices in the scam or they are often absent from their duty stations when the drugs are stolen.


Masaka regional referral hospital in deep crisis due to drug shortage

Persistent power outage and breakdown of equipment have plunged Masaka regional referral hospital into a crisis.

The hospital records at least 2,000 patients daily from the eight districts including Rakai, Sembabule, Lyantonde, Lwengo, Bukomansimbi, Kalungu, Kalangala and Masaka district. Some of the patients come from as far as Tanzania.

The hospital is however lacks vital supplies to provide medical services. The hospital currently lacks vital drugs including IV fluids which are transfused to malaria patients and expecting mothers among others.

The X-ray machine remains closed as the hospital is yet to fulfil the conditions that led to its closure.  In June this year, the Uganda Atomic Energy Council (AEC-Uganda) ordered the closure of the X-Ray and Scan machine section of the hospital saying it was below the required standards. AEC-Uganda said at the time that the hospital lacked a radiation officer, a radiation safety committee and had no warning signs about the dangers of radiation.

The hospital has also been defaulting on operation license  fee of 1.5million shillings.

Ereazer Mugisha, the Masaka hospital Principal Administrator says they have petitioned Members of Parliament from Masaka district to help voice their concerns in Parliament. A copy of the petition has been given to MPs through Matthias Mpuuga of Masaka municipality.

Mugisha says the hospital is operating without an ambulance which has frustrated transportation of patients that need referral. He also says the blood bank is nolonger functioning because the equipment that is supposed to keep the blood safe is faulty.

According to Mugisha, all these problems have paralyzed medical services amid overwhelming numbers of patients that need it.

A URN reporter on Thursday found several patients stranded in the hospital corridors without drugs. Rehema Nandugga and Mariam Mpiima have children with sickle cell anaemia.

They tell URN that since their admission on Monday, they have not received any form treatment because the drugs are not available. They both fear the worst for their children.

Kanifa Nakatte, a resident of Bukomansimbi is also stuck in Masaka hospital after her son was diagnosed with congenital heart defect commonly known as a hole in the heart which affects the flow of blood. She says doctors advised her to look for 20 million shillings to fix the complication.

Nakatte, a subsistence farmer says she has has decided to camp at the hospital.

MPs Mathias Mpuuga of Masaka Municipality and Mary Babirye Kabanda, the district woman legislator say they have visited the hospital and came face to face with the challenges. They say they are going to present these concerns to the relevant authorities.

Mpuuga says some problems such as power outage are manageable. He says he will meet with the area UMEME Manager to ensure the hospital gets uninterrupted power supply.


Primary school pupils consume Marijuana in Kabale

At least 30 pupils of Muyumbu Primary school in Kyanamira Sub County in Kabale district has confessed to smoking marijuana. According to the school administration, at the times the implicated pupils incite their classmates to chase teachers from their classrooms.

Charles Akankwasa, the head teacher Muyumbu primary school says they received a rumor early last term that some of their pupils were involved in smoking marijuana, which forced them to launch an inquiry. He says during the inquiry some of the pupils, mostly from the areas where marijuana is grown as a cash crop, confessed to smoking the banned substance.
Akankwasa says they have forwarded the matter to police and the district leadership for possible intervention. According to Akankwasa, marijuana smoking has serious consequences on the discipline of pupils as absenteeism and disrespect for teachers have become the order of the day.

A parent at the school who declined to be named admits that his son is one of the pupils involved in marijuana smoking. He says that his son started smoking the banned substance after his friends convinced him that he will become strong. Henry Alyang, the Officer in charge of Criminal Intelligence and Investigations department at Kabale Central Police Station told Uganda Radio Network that marijuana growing and smoking has become a serious challenge in the district.

According to Alyang, marijuana is openly grown in Ruhija and Ikumba sub counties among others, adding that they have embarked on operations to need the producers and consumers. He says they also intend to engage schools to see how they can stop the vice among pupils.

Sabit Kenneth Baabo, the Kabale District Education Officer told Uganda Radio Network that the situation at Muyumbu primary school is worrying and needs to be addressed immediately. Bridget Tumwesigye, the Kabale LC V Vice chairperson, says they are concerned about the rate at which people in Kyanamira Sub County have taken up marijuana growing.




FUFA determined to curb doping through regular tests

Ugandan footballers will, starting next season, undergo doping tests as local football body, Fufa, move to curb the vice.

The development is in line with World Anti-Doping Agency’s (Wada) efforts to tame the widespread evil, according to Dr. James Ssekajugo, a Caf and Fifa medical committee member.

“We are stepping up doping tests among footballers, coaches and administrators at all levels,” said Ssekajugo at the Fufa press conference in Kampala on Wednesday.

“We are going to first educate them on the dangers of taking banned substances before we begin random testing when the league commences.”

National anti-doping agency (Nado) chairman, Dr. Robert Zavuga, chipped in: “After massive awareness campaign, we want to detect and deter drug abusers,” said Zavuga.

“Testing gives confidence to clean athletes and protects players taking genuine drugs,” The campaign will be fully funded by Wada through Nado and will be based on sampling method.

Fufa CEO Edgar Watson said that the doping exercise will include all leagues in Uganda, beach soccer and women footballers and will cut across all ages.




I did not see signs of Jackie being on drug during Blu*3 – Cindy

Cinderella Sanyu says she did not see any signs of Jackie using drugs during their time in Blu*3.

While appearing on the Over drive stripped, Cindy did attribute the use of drugs by artists majorly to peer pressure and the pressure that comes with the job.

         “Many young artists see old artists using drugs and they think it is the cool thing to do” -Cindy

She confessed that she did not think what she had seen on the papers and rumors that drugs had taken a toll on her was true. ” I didn’t take the rumors seriously because tabloids always write terrible things about artists that are false.

When she finally confirmed that it was true, Jackie was really sick, she went to see her but since the hospital and close relatives vet who sees Jackie. I was not allowed to see her because I did not fall in the category of close friends and relatives but I still wished her a quick recovery.

Cindy said she did not do a lot of music last year but was up to her game this year and did hint on working with Kenyan Wahu and having a big concert as the year goes.