Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Pharmacies around Kampala are rationing Vitamin C tablets due to the shortage of the drug on the Ugandan market. At many pharmacies that URN visited in Ntinda, Wandegeya, Kamwokya and within the Central Business District, customers cannot buy more than one box of Vitamin C tablets.
Pharmacists say the rationing of the supplements is needed since the tablets are not readily available from their suppliers. The supplement is one of the medicines that is used to manage COVID-19. At Haddan Pharmacy along Mawanda Road in Kampala, the most vitamin C that someone can buy is one strip. At Good life pharmacy in Ntinda, customers cannot buy a box of the tablets.
Eunice Kisakye, a pharmacist at Haddan Pharmacy told URN that the drug is being rationed due to shortage. “We have a few boxes left and we do not know where we shall be able to get more from. Even in town, there is nothing. All the big retail places that we normally buy the tablets from do not have,” she said.
Grace Muhumuza, a pharmacist at First Pharmacy, told URN that the rationing is due to an increase in demand. “These days Vitamin C is one of the first selling drugs we have. The moment people get flu, the first thing that they want to take is Vitamin C. This is making the drug get finished from stock first,” she said.
Fredrick Mugoya at Plus Medic Pharmacy in Wandegeya says the demand for the vitamin C supplement outweighs the supply. “This week is better in stocks. We have enough to sell a box. Last week we had very little stock and could not sell more than two strips to any customer,” he said.
The rationing of the supplement has also come with an increase in the price. According to Ahumuza, the most affected brand of the drug is that one imported from Kenya. A box of ten strips of the Kenyan imported drug on average costs between Shillings 25,000 to 30,000. Four months back, the same quantity of the drug went for Shillings 15,000 on average.
However, drug importers and wholesale distributors say they are not aware of the price increase and shortage. Dr. Bildard Baguma, the Executive Director Joint Medical Stores says that there is no medicine shortage.
“We have not heard anything of the sort. We have more than enough stocks of vitamin C in the country. There’s no reason for rationing vitamin C or even increasing its price,” Dr. Baguma said. Similarly, Kajaram Sankaran, the CEO of Abacus Group of Companies, says they have not heard or experienced any shortage of the vitamin C supplement.
“Due to COVID-19 and global shortages of the drug, there might be a reduction in the supply of the drug, but we have not yet experienced that. We get our drugs from different suppliers but have not seen any shortages,” he said.
Dr. Elly Byaruhanga, a senior consultant physician, says there is no reason people should be swallowing a lot of Vitamin C. He says, people should swallow the supplements when they need them or when a doctor prescribes them.
“Fruits and vegetables offer vitamin C that is better than the manufactured ones. An adult should not swallow more than six vitamin Cs a day, but you find some people swallowing ten tablets a day since it is sweet. This is not good. It can even lead to diarrhoea,” he said. he said.