Prof Ogwang defends self in Covidex case

Wednesday July 28 2021
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Prof Patrick Ogwang. PHOTO/COURTESY

By Juliet Kigongo

Prof Patrick Ogwang has defended himself before the High Court in Kampala, saying he is the inventor of Covidex, a herbal drug used as a supportive treatment for the deadly Covid-19.

In his defence filed yesterday, Prof Ogwang, the director of Jena Herbals, a company that makes Covidex, also denies using public funds to develop the said drug.

“In specific reply to paragraph 5 of the plaint, the 1st defendant (Prof Ogwang), the director of Jena Herbals U Ltd, the 9th defendant, are the inventors of Covidex,”reads Prof Ogwang’s defence, in part.

“The Pharmaceutical Society of Uganda knows the 1st defendant, the director of Jena Herbals U Ltd, are the inventors of Covidex and there is no need for the said drug to read ‘the Government of Uganda and the people of Uganda since all the 45 million Ugandans cannot own an invention and cannot be inventors and any attempts to that direction would suppress invention and innovation in individuals.”

Prof Ogwang also contends that Covidex was developed at Jena Herbals, located outside Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST) in 2020 using private funds and that government only disbursed funds to the university in April this year.
This, he says, was for evaluation purposes of the already available product (Covidex) and that he has since been paying taxes, including VAT, income tax and Pay as You Earn (PAYE) for his employees.

While defending the continuation of manufacture of Covidex by Jena Herbals, Prof Ogwang vowed not to stop the production of the drug under his leadership since it is a lifesaving product for people suffering from Covid-19.

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“The defendants cannot be stopped as it is a lifesaving drug, unless the plaintiffs want people to continue dying,” he further argues.

Background
Early this month, Mr George William Alenyo, describing himself as a concerned lawyer, and Christian Chamber of Commerce, Agriculture, Industry, Trade and Tourism, sued Prof Ogwang seeking court’s declarations that the Covidex drug is a proprietary patent for the government, having been developed using government funds, premises and laboratories.

Core to the petitioners’ concern is that Prof Ogwang, a civil servant, reportedly developed the herbal medicinal drug using government funds at MUST, alongside his colleagues and yet he is single-handedly claiming its patent rights as an individual.
This is not the only law suit challenging the ownership of Covidex by Prof Ogwang.

On July 13, Advocates for People (AFP) and Mr Musa Muhammed Kigongo, the director and secretary general of AFP, sued the National Drug Authority (NDA) for giving Prof Ogwang’s Jena Herbals Uganda Ltd, the green light to manufacture, sell and distribute Covidex drug.

Prof Ogwang is yet to file his defence in this particular case.

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