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Availability Of Essential Medicine Still Low - Study

Studies conducted by a multi-stakeholder alliance of governments, development partners, private sector and civil society have revealed that availability of medicines in Uganda is still low as there are still continued stock-outs.

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Studies conducted by a multi-stakeholder alliance of governments, development partners, private sector and civil society have revealed that availability of medicines in Uganda is still low as there are still continued stock-outs.

 

The organisations which include the World Health Organisation –WHO, Uganda National Health Consumers’ Organisation (UNHCO), Coalition for Health Promotion and Social Development (PEPS) among others revealed the findings at a forum titled, increasing access to medicines through transparency and accountability.

 

They noted that at 68%, medicine availability in public facilities is still undesirable saying that continued stock-outs are a clear indication that the country’s health system is still grappling with serious inadequacies.

 

According to one of the reports, the proportion of facilities without stock-outs of six tracer medicines was recorded at 28% which is three times lower than the 80% target.

 

Another one of the reports also notes that the lowest availability was registered in paediatric formulations with amoxicillin suspension at 11%, cotrimoxazole syrup at 16% and metronidazole syrup at 45%

 

Only 89% of public and mission facilities had artemether-the medicine for treating malaria while less than 70% of the facilities had medicines for the non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and hypertension.

 

Rosette Mutambi, the executive director of HEPS-Uganda, urged government to make paediatric medicines available because children are vulnerable. She said that when they were carrying out the study, they were always told that one of the reasons children’s medicines are not available is their bulkiness. She said that this shouldn’t be a reason for the children to die of curable diseases.

 

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She also said that non-communicable diseases are on the increase and therefore government should pay attention to these medicines. But Oteba Martin, an assistant commissioner in the Ministry of Health, said that the ministry has improved greatly on the availability of health services and is still doing whatever is possible to improve.

 

He said that the availability rate isn’t bad noting that 68 percent demonstrates great improvement and that the rate could be higher since the study was done a year ago. He said that for children’s medicine, the ministry moved from syrups to other medicines which could be why the mentioned syrups were missing in most facilities.

 

Oteba added that the sources of some medicines are generally scarce and that the country’s resources are still inadequate saying that the National Medical Stores (NMS) is dependent on the national coffers.

 

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Nazeem Mohammad, the co-chair of the Medicines Transparency Alliance (META), said that Uganda is not doing very badly considering the state of its economy. He said that even developed countries have not achieved 100 percent medicine availability.

 

The study also found out that prices are a big determinant of medicine availability. The study revealed that medicines are not affordable in some places showing that medicines were 12 times more expensive in urban than in rural areas. The study further showed that medicines for chronic illnesses like asthma, depression, diabetes, hypertension and ulcers cost more than a day’s wage for the lowest paid government worker.

 

The organisations concluded that the granting of autonomy to NMS in 2009 and increasing funds allocated to it from 30% to 70% has not yielded any significant results as far as medicine availability is concerned.