Districts stuck with expired malaria drugs

Ben Okiror | 29 Jan 2010
New Vision
Several districts are stuck with expired anti-malarial drugs, yet there is a shortage of drugs in health centres and hospitals. The drugs, mostly Homapak, are kept in the stores of the health facilities in the districts, waiting to be collected and destroyed by the National Drug Authority (NDA).

Some districts say they do not have the money to pay NDA for the destruction of the drugs. Others blame NDA for delaying to collect the drugs.

Stanley Nyakisa, the principal health inspector of Bushenyi, said they have drugs that expired two years ago but NDA has not yet picked them.

Kiruhura LC5 chairman Phillip Kamugungunu said his district had been stuck with expired drugs for over 10 years.

"I have asked the authorities if I can bring them to Kampala but they have refused, saying that is their responsibility."

But NDA spokesperson Fred Ssekyana said destroying expired drugs is a long process. He explained that Government auditors have to be sent to verify and inspect the drugs.

After the necessary reports are filed and fees paid, NDA seals them and puts in place guards to watch over them.

"That is why we encourage districts to ensure they use up their drugs, instead of leaving them to expire," he said.

He also clarified that the health ministry meets the cost of destroying the drugs since the districts do not have a budget for that.

NDA charges sh2,470 per kilogramme of drugs destroyed, plus a supervision charge of sh50,000 per hour. Most of the destruction takes place in Nakasongola, where the special incinerators are.

Meanwhile, both the districts and the supplier, National Medical Stores (NMS), have blamed each other for the expired drugs.

While the districts complain that they are given drugs that are nearing expiry date, NMS argues that the drugs expire in the district stores because the districts delay to dispatch them to the health centres.

Ironically, reports of expired drug come amid complaints from districts about a lack of essential drugs in hospitals and health centres.

Last month, the districts of Soroti, Hoima, Mbale, Amuru, Mbarara and Gulu complained that they had run out of essential drugs, including anti-malarial drugs.