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Health facilities fail to restock chloroquine over high prices


Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Most private health facilities in Kitgum Municipality have failed to increase on their stock of chloroquine because of exorbitant prices in pharmacies across the region. Until recently, chloroquine has been widely available and would cost Shillings 200 and Shillings 300 in health facilities in the district. However, a survey conducted by Uganda Radio Network on Wednesday found that chloroquine has run out in most health facilities in Kitgum Municipality.

The price of chloroquine has risen by almost six times. At Rubangangeyo pharmacy, in Central division, a tablet of chloroquine now costs Shillings 2,000 from Shillings 300 previously. A pharmacist at the facility told Uganda Radio Network that the abnormal price hike was caused by the high prices of chloroquine from their suppliers in Kampala.

She says their last stock of 100 tablets cost them Shillings 250,000 yet earlier it would only cost around Shillings 25,000. “The price of chloroquine has shot up recently especially during this coronavirus pandemic. We are now buying expensively from suppliers so we are forced to sell expensively to get profits,” she said.

Health officials in some of the private health facilities say the high prices have rendered them unable to purchase the drugs for resale to vulnerable patients within the community. At Agape drug shop, Kitgum General Hospital private ward and Kitgum maternity and medical center, pharmacists who didn’t want their names mentioned so as to speak freely said they didn’t restock chloroquine due to the high price.

They say the abnormally high prices make it impossible to sell the drug to their patients yet there are other cheaper and more effective malarial drugs.

Why are their prices so high?  

Dr. Pamela Atim Okot, the medical director St Joseph’s Hospital Kitgum confirmed the increased demand for chloroquine from pharmacies and drug shops. She attributes the high demand to emerging reports from scientists that there is possibility that chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine could be useful in the management of coronavirus disease.

She however, says there no scientific reports on the effectiveness of the drugs to manage Covid-19 and warned locals against purchasing the drug without prescription from doctors.

She advised Pharmacists to avoid selling chloroquine to locals without prescription.

Robert Ocakacon, a trader in Kitgum Municipality says that he bought 10 tablets of chloroquine from a pharmacy at Shillings 30,000 last week. Ocakacon says he was compelled to make the purchase because of reports that chloroquine can help to treat symptoms and limit the spread of contagious virus.

“I have not yet swallowed the drug because I’m still waiting for scientific reports and the Health Ministry to confirm that it can cure Covid-19. I am sure the price will go up and many people won’t even afford it anymore,” he told Uganda Radio Network in an interview.

Dr. Geoffrey Okello, the Acting Medical Superintendent Kitgum General Hospital warned locals against purchasing medicine without prescription during the district covid-19 task force meeting on Tuesday. He advised locals to instead consume and drink more fruits to help boost their immunity rather resorting to self-medication using chloroquine.

The health ministry is currently using hydroxychloroquine, a much stable malarial drug as treatment for patients recovering from Covid-19. Efforts to get a comment from Emmanuel Ainebyoona, the Senior Health Ministry spokesperson were futile as he didn’t answer our phone call.

Currently, there is no specific medicine recommended by the World Health Organization to prevent or treat coronavirus. Currently, Uganda has registered 55 COVID-19 cases. However, 12 patients have since recovered and been discharged.



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