KAMPALA- The Health ministry has said raw materials to kick-start manufacturing of hydroxychloroquine, one of the drugs used to treat Covid-19 patients, are on their way into the country.
Dr Joyce Moriku Kaducu, the minister of State for Primary Healthcare, said government was working closely with the local manufacturing company, Cipla Quality Chemicals Limited, to start the production.
“Some of our drugs against Covid-19 are going to be manufactured here. They [Cipla Quality Chemicals] are importing the reagents,” Ms Kaducu told Daily Monitor yesterday in a telephone interview.
Mr Nevin Bradford, the central executive officer of Cipla, yesterday also confirmed the raw materials are in transit.
He said the company had obtained approval from the ministry to import raw materials.
“The drug we are manufacturing is hydroxychloroquine sulphate that is indicated as treatment for Covid-19. We are importing the products we need from India to start manufacturing and they are reaching soon and manufacturing will start within three or four weeks,” he said.
Mr Bradford, however, said the cost of raw materials has risen due to global demand, adding that this would affect the price of treatment for Covid-19.
He said the drug is also used to treat arthritis and other conditions of immunity that are common in the country.
He said the company is facing a challenge of keeping their workers on site during the lockdown.
“However we have a guest house where our workers stay and other staff members are working from home,” Mr Bradford said.
Dr Denis Mwesigwa, the director of Inspectorate andEnforcement at National Drug Authority, said the agency has granted Cipla approval for production of the drug.
Dr Mwesigwa, however, said hydroxychloroquine shall not be traded as a drug for Covid-19.
“There is yet no scientific proof that hydroxychloroquine is a treatment for Covid-19. So they can manufacture buttrade it as treatment for the usual diseases that were being managed using the drug,” the director said.
Controversy on the drug
The first patient in Uganda to fully recover from Covid-19 was managed using hydroxychloroquine, a drug that is still under clinical trial and WHO has not yet approved.
“The patients we are discharging today were on hydroxychloroquine and erythromycin actually,” the director general of Health Services in the Ministry of Health, Dr Henry Mwebesa, tweeted when the country discharged the first three Covid-19 patients on April 11.
The widespread use of hydroxychloroquine started in March when President Donald Trump stated during his March 19 address to the White House that the country’s Food and Drug Authority (FDA) had approved the drug for treatment of Covid-19.
However, experts warn that a number of clinical trials are showing that the drug may have some adverse effects on patients.
Dr Samuel Opio, the secretary of the Pharmaceutical Society of Uganda, was quoted by Uganda Radio Network last week cautioning that hydroxychloroquine can lead to long lasting effects such as loss of sight, if not used properly.
Dr Lisa J. Nelson, the country director of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said all drugs have side effects but it is all about weighing their benefits.
“I read new literature about the disease and its treatment every day. It is something new and we should know that all drugs have side effects,” she said yesterday.
In his televised address to the nation on April 14, President Museveni hinted at using homegrown anti-malarial drugs to treat Covid-19. He said the government would initially import the medicine from India before starting to manufacture it locally.
“India will supply us with the hydroxychloroquine as well as the raw-materials to make it here,” Mr Museveni said.