Ministry of health is set to destroy between 1200 to 1500 tons of expired drugs, worth billions of shillings.
The exercise will see the National Medical Stores picking expired drugs from a total of 6619 government and private non-profit facilities across the country.
Dr Diana Atwine, the Ministry of Health Permanent Secretary says, the exercise comes at a time when government has for the last seven years not destroyed such expired drugs. The last exercise took place in 2012 when close to 1000 tons of expired drugs were also destroyed.
“This process will create more space for adequate storage of medicines and other health supplies delivered by National Medical Stores (NMS), and Joint Medical Store (JMS), and prevent the risk of; public health hazards, pilferage and relabeling as a result of keeping such items in health facilities for long. Expired pharmaceuticals are a growing concern in the country and can also result into a risk to national security,” she said.
According to her, about 5% of pharmaceuticals in the distribution chain is bound to end up as obsolete or expired. She said for the last seven years, the exercise has not been carried out, because the process of destroying expired medicine demands a lot.
“The last time such a massive exercise was carried out was in 2012. Currently, the quantities of expired medicines all over the country are estimated to be about 1,200 to 1,500 tons.” Dr Atwine said.
A team from the National Drug Authority, the National Medical Stores, Joint Medical Stores and the ministry of health with the guidance from the National Environment Management Authority is in place to see the process.
She said while NDA will pay for the costs of disposal of the expired drugs, the existing NMS logistics system will be used for collection of the obsolete supplies from the various Public, and PNFP health facilities across the country. NEMA, according to the programme will ensure that the drugs are incinerated at the approved disposal sites.
She said obsolete supplies in Public Health facilities - from Health Centres II, III, IV and PNFPs will be picked from District Health Offices (DHOs) for each district, while for General Hospitals, and Regional Referral Hospitals (RRH) will be picked from the health facilities on return trips by NMS trucks during the routine scheduled deliveries for the viable medicines to these health facilities.
A storage facility has been secured at the National Medical Stores at Entebbe where collected expired medicines will be temporarily stored before being transported to safe disposal site in Nakasongola where the exercise will be carried out.
Dr Atwine has directed the district health officers to coordinate the exercise to ensure that the process goes smoothly.
“This is a one off exercise and all DHOs, and the In-charge personnel at Health Facilities must ensure that these items are at the designated collection points to be picked during NMS delivery cycle for this Financial Year ending June 2018.
The health ministry permanent secretary also said the ministry has tasked the National Drug Authority to establish a rigorous post market surveillance system which will ensure that all the medicines on the market, both imported and locally manufactured are closely monitored for safety, efficacy and quality.
Mr Moses Kamabare, the general manager of the National medical store said while there have been cases of drug stock outs, other drugs are also getting expired all the time.
“We do not know which items are expired and what volume is expired. We expect that when we pick these items from the health facilities, we shall possibly have an idea of the different types of medicines that have expired.”
He however, said many of the expired drugs are those for rare diseases where the number of patients are fewer. Mr Kamabare said based on predictions, in some cases, they have overstocked supplies which never translated into higher demands leading them to get expired.
He said, the expired drugs will be withdrawn over a period of time up to June this year when the exercise will be completed.
“These drugs will be brought from the health facilities during our normal delivery cycles and will be in our offices for about two to three days before they are transported by the contracted provider to safe disposal site in Nakasongola,” he said.