Experts disagree on new medicine, food authority

Wednesday April 23 2014

National Drug Authority chairman Sam Zaramba displays a copy of licensed

National Drug Authority chairman Sam Zaramba displays a copy of licensed pharmacies and drug stores as per 2014 at the meeting at Protea Hotel yesterday. PHOTO BY STEPHEN WANDERA 

By Stephen Wandera

Kampala- A Bill proposing the creation of the National Food and Medicines National Authority (NFMA) to jointly regulate the food and medicine sectors has come under contest as misguided.
The Bill was recently approved by Cabinet but prior to endorsement, it was identified as the National Food and Drugs Authority (NFDA) that medical experts say is the ideal identity to meet international standards.

According to the National Drug Authority chairman, Dr Sam Zaramba, Cabinet’s decision to change the name is not in line with worldwide practice.
“I do not know who went and confused Cabinet. We must harmonise with the region and the world standards,” he said.

Speaking at a stakeholder’s consultative meeting to review the NFMA Bill at Protea Hotel yesterday, Dr Zaramba said government institutions worldwide that regulate drugs and medicines are identified as drug agencies, not medicines.

Kampala Capital City Authority health inspector David Sserwanga warned that if enacted into law, it could end up not being enforced.

“We used to have Food and Drug Act when the National Drug Authority 1993 came up, it was later shelved. There is a law that protects animals from cruelty but it is not clearly stated who should implement it,” he said.

“There is also the Public Health Act that has clauses that deal with food but it is rarely implemented. In Uganda, we make one step forward and two steps backward,” he added.

Responding to Dr Zaramba’s concerns, senior State Attorney Nancy Awori said the change in naming NFMA was in line with East Africa Community recommendation.

“EAC ministers agreed that regulatory agencies be identified with medicine. The word drug has a negative connotation of drug addiction that is being avoided”, she said defending Cabinet’s position.

Should the Bill be enacted into law, services of several government units and departments in Uganda National Bureau of Standards in the Ministry of Tourism, Trade and Industry and Ministry of Agriculture Animal Industry and Fisheries, will be taken over by NFMA, a role that is now mostly being carried by National Drug Authority (NDA). The expected mergers have raised concerns of job security amongst several civil servants.

However, Mr Gordon Sematiko, the executive secretary, NDA, the lead government agency in the restructuring assured civil servants of their jobs.
“It is known that there are some public sectors that are not regulated. Look at funeral homes, our daughters suffering in saloons from hot hair driers, people have died in gyms,” he said.

He further explained the details of the Bill. “No clinic operator will be allowed to stock pile drugs apart from essential drugs,” he said.

Uganda Veterinary Association president Dominic U. Lall Mundrugo Ogo requested NFMA that a special permit be given to veterinary doctors for stock piling of drugs.