The manufacturer of Covidex, Jena Herbals Limited, has capped the market price of the product at Shs12,000, warning drug dealers against extorting money from Ugandans by hiking the product prices.
The move follows rising public outcry that many people are failing to afford the herbal medicine approved by National Drug Authority last week as supportive treatment for Covid-19, as prices go as high as Shs160,000 per 20mls bottle.
Addressing journalists in Kampala yesterday, Prof Patrick Ogwang, the developer of the product and founder of Jena Herbals Limited, said the high prices being charged per bottle of the medicine is against his agenda.
“We developed the medicine not to make money but to help people. When we developed Covidex, we anticipated the high demand that one can make a lot of money [from it] and become the richest Ugandan within few months,” Prof Ogwang said.
“But our company’s principle is to help humanity first… The factory price [of Covidex] is now at Shs6,000. Wholesalers can add like Shs2,000 to make it Shs8,000. Pharmacies can sell it at about Shs10,000 to Shs12,000. So that a full dose for an adult at Shs36,000,” he said.
But according to information gathered by this newspaper, each bottle costs between Shs30,000 and Shs160,000. But Prof Ogwang appealed to traders to desist from taking advantage of Covid-19 crisis.
“That is greed. Let us not take this chance to become rich. Let us take this chance to help fellow Ugandans who need the medicine,” he said.
Dr Pamela Achii, the president of Pharmaceutical Society of Uganda (PSU), asked the public to stop hoarding the medicine, saying it deprives access to patients who need.
“Many people have gone to buy this product in bulk, but even if it is herbal medicine, buying in bulk is an abuse.
Some people are buying and taking the product to supermarkets; supermarkets are not the [authorised] places to sell medicine; that is where we go wrong. We must follow the local regulations as far manufacturing, distribution and use of the medicine,” she said.
But the Mbarara University Vice Chancellor, Prof Celestino Obua, warned PSU against colluding with Prof Ogwang to kick the institution out of progressing the development of Covidex.
Prof Obua said they will not stand to see Jena Herbals Limited take advantage of the product for which the university owns the Intellectual Property (IP) rights. But he has not revealed when they got the IP rights and what the registration number with Uganda Registration Services Bureau is. Prof Ogwang has maintained that Covidex was a product he developed independently more than 10 years ago, and that he repurposed it for Covid-19 treatment.
He said they are going to work with distributors to make the product reach different corners of the country, address issues of inconsistency in the product packaging and increase production capacity to meet the high demand.
“Don’t forge the medicine. Anyone who is found forging Covidex will not go scot-free. We shall catch them and they will be punished,” Prof Ogwang said yesterday.