By Daraus Bahikire
On the 12th January 2018, the minister of Health together with the Permanent Secretary addressed the public on government’s move to dispose-off an estimated 1,200-1,500 tons of expired drugs from 6,619 Government and Private Not for Profit health facilities around the country. To many ,this was seen as awastage of resources and drugs needed by Ugandans.
Important to note is that the drugs to be incinerated have accumulated over a five year period contrary to allegations of one year. Since then, there has been media hullabaloo and theories of unfounded allegations. The quesetion is, did we take time to ask ourselves “The Why” and “The How” of this action?
Drugs supplied to all public and private health facilities are procurerd and supplied by a government agency known as the National medical storese(NMS) and the certified private not for profit NGO, the Joint Medical Stores (JMS)
Its should also be noted that the health facilities through their respective district health officers submit their quarterly or emergency orders to NMS/JMS, the latter follows the stipulated procedure and makes the supply to the requisitioning districts/faci;lities .
We should therefore understand that that the expired drugs are never in the national stores nor at the district but rather at the various health facilities (HC1,HC11,HC111,HCIV,general hospitals, regional referrals among others, districts simply serve as collection points for the delivered and expoired drugs.
How do we finally have these expired drugs ?
To my knowledge , some drugs supplied end up unused over time, notably medicines for dog and snake bites .It,s on a rare occassion that a village or subcounty can have a case of snake bites hence such drugs will always remain unused.
We must appreciate that there has been significant reduction in disease prevalence over time, for example over the 5 years, malaria has reduced from over 25 % in 2011 to 19 % in 2017.This leaves a significant portion of the drugs unused and will eventually expire.
In some areas ,health facilities are always packed with drugs because of few cases of sicknesses. Such drugs remain at facilities till expiry.
District health officers should ensure redistribution of drugs from health facilities of less usage to where they are needed most .This will help us do away with the expiry of medicines and costs of incineration.
Last but not least, on many occassions , Members of Parliament donate ambulances to their constituencies, but would these ambulances serve any purpose if there are no drugs in the facility where the referral has been made? absoulutely no!
Uganad has enough drugs for its citizens ,people should not be misinformed by selfish individuals who intend to drive their agenda forward. We ought to explain to our people the circumstances under which the expired drugs arise, rather than inculcating confusion in the name of making popitical statements which are hardly people centred.
The writter is a concerned citizen passionate with health.