Shs3.7 Billion Malaria, ARV Drugs Rot in National Medical Stores

Agness Nandutu | 12 Jul 2007

While on their fact finding tour of NMS in Entebbe yesterday, MPs on the Social Services Committee led by James Kubeketerya (Bunya East) were shocked to find eight containers of 2- feet, full of expired drugs yet Ugandans are perishing in hospitals without treatment.

The NMS General Manager Apollo Newton Mwesigye told MPs that due to over stocking of drugs by third party programmes at NMS, ARV drugs valued at Shs900 million and other drugs worth Shs1.2 billion have already expired. Those that are about to expire are valued at Shs1.65 billion.

Third parties are programmes like Global Funds that store drugs at NMS.

Mr Mwesigye said, "Due to unique nature of NMS operations, expiry of drugs has remained a big challenge. We can only minimize these loses if NMS is given power to perform its statutory mandate of procurement, storage and distribution of drugs. We cannot do away with the expired drugs but if procurement is harmonized, we can reduce," he told MPs.

Former NMS General Manager Robert Rutagi was last year suspended for mismanagement that led to the expiry of ARV packs worth Shs936 million.

Thousands of Ugandans die of malaria and HIV/Aids annually due to inadequate drugs in hospitals countrywide.

He told MPs that big volumes of expired drugs and those that are about to expire belong to third party programmes but few of the drugs belong to NMS.

Out of the 13,000 square metre-storage space, only 2000 store NMS drugs.

Mr Mwesigye told MPs that third party programmes procure big volumes of drugs, which are sometimes already procured by NMS.

"NMS is not involved in the planning or procurement of the items and we are expected to accept all consignments at very short notice. This has led to a distortion in NMS hence expiry," he said.

He said many of the programmes procure short-lived drugs and leave them for a long time at NMS, which in many cases expire. Mr Kubeketerya demanded for the list of programmes that bring in the drugs that expire at NMS.

"If you don't expose them, it's your name that gets spoiled. It's proper to avail to us the names of these programmes so that people get to know their negligence," he said.

Some of the programmes that were named to have left drugs for a long time at NMS to expire are Global fund, Aids Control Programme, Clinton Foundation, Malaria Control Programme among others.

Mr Mwesigye told MPs that there is an increased number and volume of redundant stock at NMS.

He said high on the redundant stock list are condoms, homapaks for malaria, ARV oral dosage forms and syrups, Uganda Aids Commission lab supplies and other Global fund stock among others.

"This translates into high inventory holding costs and the expiry risk that in turn leads to financial loss. This is because NMS is not involved in the planning and procurement of the items," he said.

He said big volumes of the drugs that expire have a short life span and are brought in without proper planning.

He said some of the drugs are procured in preparation for out breaks like bad flu but expire if the outbreaks don't occur. Said Mr Mwesigye "If there is harmonizing of procurement with third party programmes, we can do proper planning and schedule the distribution in a well coordinated manner to reduce expired drugs," he said.

Rukiga MP Samuel Byanangwa said, "These donors should be told how work. How can they bring in drugs and then fail to distribute them? Uganda is not a dumping ground."

The MPs advised NMS to reject drugs if their stores already have them.

Mr Mwesigye said if NMS predicts the expired drugs, they supply the relevant information to the third party programmes but most of them fail to respond to save them.