CSOs Look for Answers as Govt Moves to Destroy Expired Medicines

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In short
The CSOs demand comes after the Ministry of Health together with the National Medical Stores NMS and the National Drug Authority NDA announced in February that they would be disposing of 1,200 tonnes of pharmaceutical waste from 6,619 health facilities around the country.

Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) under the Civil Society Budget Advisory Group (CSBAG) want the Ministry of Health to answer a series of questions regarding the forthcoming mass disposal of pharmaceutical waste.

Among the questions they want answered is why government will be disposing of expired drugs yet the country has suffered from drug stock outs.

CSBAG brings together more than 70 CSOs in the country, including Action Aid, Forum for Women in Democracy, Uganda Debt Network, Uganda Women's Network, African Center for Trade and Development, Water Aid, Platform for Citizen Participation and Accountability and  Desutsche Stiftung Weltbevolkerung among others.

The CSOs demand comes after the Ministry of Health together with the National Medical Stores (NMS) and the National Drug Authority (NDA) announced in February that they would be disposing of 1,200 tonnes of pharmaceutical waste from 6,619 health facilities around the country.

Julius Mukunda, National Coordinator CSBAG, says that while the disposal of expired drugs is very important, the exercise is wasteful at the end of the day.

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The Auditor General's 2016/2017 report on the Financial Statements of NMS showed that items worth 3.5 billion Shillings remained undistributed to 649 health centres around the country. The report adds that 98 health centres each had a balance of drugs worth over two million Shillings.

Muklunda says that the Ministry of Health should explain how the government can have a large load of drugs to dispose of yet the country has been suffering from drug stock outs.

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According to the 2016 Auditor General's report, medicines that are widely used in the fight against malaria were not available in certain health centres. The report adds that Mama Kits for expectant mothers were out of stock for 320 days while Coartem for 285 days in different parts of the country.

Sophie Kakembo Nampewo, a Budget Policy Specialist, says that the ministry needs to give the public a breakdown of what drugs are going to be disposed of so that the people responsible can be held accountable.

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The CSOs want government to release a list of the expired drugs that will be incinerated under the watchful eye of NDA officials. They also want the ministry to reveal the cost implication of disposing of the drugs but also how much it cost to procure them in the first place, why drugs with short shelf lives are procured, and which health centres the drugs will be collected from.

According to the Ministry of Health, an exercise of such magnitude that affects all health facilities in the country was last carried out in 2012. The medicines are to be incinerated at Luwero Industries located in Nakasongola district.