By Leilah Bbaale
The move follows the increase in prices of the drug. Prior to yesterday’s approval of the product by the National Drug Authority, the drug was being sold on the open market for an average of 10,000. Shillings. But this price went up fivefold, selling for as much as 50,000 Shillings as the demand went up across the country.
Pamela Achii, the President of the Pharmaceutical Society of Uganda says that they have decided to streamline the sale of COVIDEX to only four pharmacies in the country. So far two pharmacies; Ecopharm, and Springs Pharmacy have been designated to sell COVIDEX, and Achii is optimistic that the price of the drug will go down in the next few days.
“We have noticed an increase in prices and we are working towards rectifying this. This drug is supposed to be sold at 10,000 Shillings at a few selected pharmacies. But now we have unlicensed people who are distributing the drug at a high cost,” Achii said.
However, middlemen distributing the drug attribute the high cost to demand and limited availability of the product. Emma Mugisha, one of the people supplying the drug within Kampala says, they are selling at a higher price because the selected pharmacies selling are hiking up the price due to high demand.
“The prices are high because the drug is no longer there. Distributors like Spings pharmacy do not have the drug. When we go there, we are asked to pay more money to get it and we also have to increase the price of the drug,” he said.
According to Mugisha, pharmacies are supposed to be selling a box of 100 pieces at 1 million Shillings. But due to high demand and export to neighbouring countries like Kenya, a box now goes for 1.8 million Shillings or 1.9 million Shillings, implying that they also have to increase the retail price. Another middle man identified as Abdu Asiimwe, who was selling the drug at 40,000 Shillings says the increase in the price started from the pharmacies.
“It is very hard to find this drug. So many people want it but it is almost next to impossible to get. When we go to pharmacies, we are told there are no drugs. That they are over even when you had made an order. When you get your order, they can now only give you half of it,” he said.
An employee at Spring pharmacy who preferred to remain anonymous says they do not have enough stock. “We are selling more than 2,000 pieces of COVIDEX now but at times the suppliers only deliver 500 to 1,000 pieces. We have so many pending orders,” the source said.
Despite the mad dash for the drug on the premise that it can treat COVID-19, NDA has warned people to consume the product with caution. During a press meeting yesterday, the secretary of the board, Dr David Nahamya said that the clinical trials to determine the efficacy of the drug in treating COVID-19 had not yet taken place. He said the herbal drug has been given the approval to be sold and marketed as a supportive treatment for viral infections.
Last year, the price of alcohol-based sanitisers increased due to demand. A one-litre bottle that previously cost 30,000 Shillings cost as much as 150,000 Shillings. At the time, only Saraya Uganda Limited was manufacturing the product. However when NDA accredited other companies to manufacturer hand sanitisers, a one-litre bottle today costs an average of 23,000 Shillings.