BY GEORGE OKELLO
& RAYMOND MAYANJA
Pharmacists have questioned the capacity of the National Drug Authority (NDA) to detect the fake Hepatitis B vaccines on the market.
Appearing before the Parliamentary Committee on Health on Tuesday, members of the Uganda Pharmacy Owners Association (UPOA) faulted NDA for approving both fake and genuine drugs to enter the country.
“NDA has no capacity to test vaccines, including the fake hepatitis B vaccine,” said Mr Deo Kalikumutima, the UPOA legal secretary.
The allegations come after the Ministry of Health and NDA last week accused some private health facilities of administering fake Hepatitis B vaccines.
However, the pharmacists instead accused NDA of licensing some of the pharmacies that allegedly sell the drugs.
“Medical centres, including Mbarara Medical Specialists that is owned by the NDA board chairman, Dr Medard Bitekyerezo, continue to operate illegal drug outlets in contravention of NDA guidelines,” said Mr Kalikumutima.
He also presented a list of eleven medical centres that allegedly operate illegal pharmacies to the committee.
They included Doctor’s Clinic and SAS on Entebbe Road, Mbarara Medical Specialist Clinics, Le Memorial Medical Services, Victoria Medical Service and the International Medical Centre.
Others are Uganda Medical Centre, Entebbe Branch, International Medical Centre, Hill Road Entebbe, St Benedict’s Hospital, Kampala Medical Chambers and Benedicts Medical Centre, Luzira.
Last week, NDA warned the public against the existence of fake counterfeit hepatitis B vaccines in public and private hospitals.
According to Ms Donna Kusemererwa, the NDA secretary, they impounded counterfeit hepatitis B vaccines from Mbarara Community Hospital, Devine Mercy, Mayanja Memorial Hospital, Family Doctors’ Clinic, Ntungamo, Mbarara City Clinic, UMC Hospital, Bukoto, Malcom Health Care, Kisasi, and Kampala Medical Chambers on Buganda Road in Kampala.
“The exercise further led to impounding of more counterfeit hepatitis B vaccines from immunisation camps at Mbale Central Market managed by unscrupulous personnel and others at Mbarara University camp, which was run by Sanyu Medical Centre, Katabi- Entebbe,” Ms Kusemererwa said in a statement issued on Tuesday.
NDA says it has registered a number of Hepatitis B vaccine brands for supply to Uganda from various manufacturers, including Serum Institute of India. This brand is available in two registered pack sizes, i.e. 1ml ampoules and 10ml multi-dose vials.
Ms Kusemererwa said the 1ml ampoule pack is supplied to the private market and is identified by a white label with two green bands at the top and bottom part of the label, respectively.
She added that the 10ml multi-dose vial supplied to government is identified by a white label with two purple bands at the top and bottom part of the label, respectively.
“The one supplied to the government also bears the words, “Government of Uganda, Not for sale”. The registered importer of this product is Norvik Enterprises Ltd, located on Bombo Road,” she added.
Ms Kusemererwa said they are conducting further investigations to establish the source of the product.
On Sunday, the Ministry of Health said it is investigating two companies over the supply of the suspected fake hepatitis B vaccines to private health facilities around the country.
Mr Sarah Opendi, the state minister for Health in charge of general duties, said during their market surveillance, they traced some of the counterfeit vaccines to Kumate Diagnostics Ltd Kampala and Forever Green Enterprises in Old Kampala.
She stated that they had established that Kumate is owned by two laboratory technicians, who are not licensed to supply the vaccines, while Forever Green is non-existent and the name could have been forged by scrupulous people to dupe Ugandans.
Meanwhile, Dr Diana Atwine, the Permanent Secretary ministry of Health has advised all Ugandans, who were vaccinated against Hepatitis B to go back for revaccination.
Speaking to PML Daily on phone on Tuesday afternoon, Dr Atwine said those vaccinated in previous months might have received a booster dose, which has no impact.