Tuesday March 21 2017

Tempers flare as pharmacists call NDA boss a ‘disgrace’

By Yasiin Mugerwa & Ibrahim A. Manzil


Pharmacists under their national umbrella body the Pharmaceutical Society of Uganda (PSU), have called the new board chairman of National Drugs Authority (NDA)a ‘disgrace’ to the medical profession for making “false utterances” against pharmacists.

Dr Medard Bitekyerezo, the former chairman of the Health Committee in 9th Parliament, who last month ascended the NDA ‘throne’ after losing his Mbarara Municipality seat in 2011 elections is also accused of running an illegal pharmacy in Mbarara Town.
“The NDA chair’s actions have been selective and targeted at pharmacists with an intention to defame in order to serve unknown interests. [He] has been silent about illegal drug outlets in the country,” the secretary council of PSU, Mr Samuel Opio, wrote in a March 17 press statement.

More than 100 pharmacists including their chairman, Dr Patrick Ogwang and his vice Pamela Achii, attended the news conference last Friday.

“Information from the Uganda Medical and dental practitioner’s council website (www.unmdpc.com) indicates he owns Mbarara Medical Specialist Clinic. This facility is currently operating illegally and running an illegal and substandard pharmacy supplying prescription only medicines contrary to the provisions of the NDA act.”

This, according to Mr Opio, provides for prescription medicines to be supplied by a duly licensed Pharmacy under supervision of a pharmacist.

Although the NDA chairman confessed owning a clinic in Mbarara and disowned the pharmacy in question, PSU has demanded that NDA investigates the illegal Pharmacy operating inside Mbarara Medical Specialists Clinic owned by Dr Bitekyerezo and closes it with immediate effect.

According to PSU this is “to safeguard the health of the public from drugs whose sources are unknown and personnel whose qualifications cannot be confirmed.”

Responding to the accusations, Dr Bitekyerezo said: “I have a clinic but I don’t have a pharmacy. I buy drugs from pharmacies and give them to my patients...”

He added: “My clinic is registered under Uganda Medical and Dental Practitioners’ Association and I have six specialists working with me. Ask that man [Mr Opio] whether that statement is the position of the pharmaceutical society.”

Mr Opio, however, insists that this is the position of PSU and described Dr Bitekyerezo as “a distressed man,” vending “falsehoods,” to tarnish pharmacists in the country.

He said Dr Bitekyerezo’s falsehoods have created a lot of panic and great anxiety among the public as regards medicines and pharmaceutical service delivery in the country.

It’s also alleged that on February 9 during his acceptance speech at the 6th NDA inauguration ceremony, Dr Bitekyerezo falsely stated that pharmacists only use their practicing certificates to supervise the pharmacies and that they did not turn up to work. He further referred to pharmacies as being supervised by mere traders.
“The NDA chairman’s remarks referring to these pharmacists as mere traders is an insult to the pharmacy profession...,” Mr Opio wrote in a statement to the media.

“The chair’s utterances are a clear intention to damage the image of Ugandan pharmacists and the chair’s assertions of NDA inspectors allowing expired drugs to be imported into the country seeks to imply that NDA inspectors are incompetent and without integrity.”
According to PSU, On the February 9 at the NDA offices, Dr Bitekyerezo threatened to arrest Mr David Ekau, a pharmacist who had turned up for inauguration as a member of the National Drug Authority board.

And as result Dr Bitekyerezo’s actions, Daily Monitor understands that Shs60 billion suit by other parties has been filed against NDA.
However, Dr Bitekyerezo claims he didnot threaten to arrest Mr Ekau and describes him as his friend.

He insists that it was Health minister Jane Ruth Aceng who blocked him on grounds that he had sworn an affidavit against NDA.
Although PSU had given Dr Bitekyerezo up to today to retract his falsehoods and apologise to pharmacists, he insists that he is innocent and that he cannot be intimidated.