CSOs Seek Parliament Intervention on Cost of ARV's

2503 Views Kampala, Uganda

In short
National Medical Stores pays US Dollars 69 230,000 Shillings for the Efavirenz drug whose global price is US dollars 20 66,000 Shillings. He also noted that Nevirapine 200mg is purchased by NMS at US Dollars 36. 6 122,000 Shillings, contrary to the global price 24 US Dollars 80,000 Shillings.

Over thirty Civil Society Organizations engaged in HIV/AIDs response are seeing parliament's intervention to reduce the price of Anti-retroviral medicines locally produced by Cipla Quality Chemicals Industries Limited.

Dennis Odwee a member of Uganda Network of AIDS Service Organizations (UNASO) told parliament's HIV/AIDs committee that the price paid by National Medical Stores (NMS) to purchase ARV's from Cipla is 30 percent higher than best international prices for Anti Retro-viral therapy -ART.

National Medical Stores pays US Dollars 69 (230,000 Shillings) for the Efavirenz drug whose global price is US dollars 20 (66,000 Shillings). He also noted that Nevirapine 200mg is purchased by NMS at US Dollars 36. 6  (122,000 Shillings), contrary to the global price 24 US Dollars (80,000 Shillings), according to records presented to the committee.

Standard antiretroviral therapy consists of the combination of the ARV drugs to maximally suppress the HIV virus and stop the progression of HIV disease. ART also prevents onward transmission of HIV, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

The health policy in Uganda requires that people who test positive to HIV are enrolled on ARVs when their immune system declines to 500 CD4 cell amount or below. Other people who qualify for ARVs, irrespective of their CD4 cell counts, are those co-infected with tuberculosis, children under 15 years of age, and most-at-risk populations, such as prostitutes.

But Odwee warns that the high cost of locally manufactured drugs limit accessibility among the poor, thereby cutting their lives short. He also blamed limited drugs for HIV like Tenofovir on encroachment of drugs for Hepatitis B treatment which he termed as financial indiscipline.
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Moses Kamabare, the General Manager of National Medical Stores refuted the accusations and noted that the standard international prices quoted by Global Fund are not standard indicator prices.  He produced comparative global market prices of items NMS procures from Quality chemicals compared to other manufacturers on the global market.
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Kamabare asked parliament to direct donor funding on top the government funding to the National Medical Stores (NMS) so that they can negotiate better prices for the medicines.
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Emmanuel Katongole, the Executive Chairman of CIPLA Quality Chemicals was also quick to refute the allegations and added that global players like Global Fund PEPFAR need to respect local prices.  

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By the end of 2015, about 1.46 million people in Uganda were living with HIV. The HIV prevalence in the general population increased from 6.4 percent in 2005 to 7.3 percent by 2011. The number of people enrolled on antiretroviral therapy (ART) also increased from about 330,000 in 2011 to about 750,896 in 2014.


About the author

Olive Nakatudde
Olive Nakatudde is a URN journalist based in Kampala. Nakatudde has been a URN staff member since 2013.

Nakatudde started out in journalism in 2009 with Dembe FM radio in Kampala. In 2012, Nakatudde joined Voice of Africa as a political reporter. She has been a photographer since her journalism school days at Makerere University.

Nakatudde is interested in good governance and public policy, which she reports on intensively from the Uganda Parliament. She is a keen follower of cultural affairs in Buganda Kingdom and covers the kingdom's Lukiiko (parliament). Nakatudde also reports on education and health.