Uganda: NCD Drugs Prioritized As Ministry Reviews Essential Medicines List

Mike of the Uganda NCD Alliance leads a parade around the community in Kampala to raise awareness of NCDs.

Kampala, Uganda — The Ministry of Health is considering including more drugs for Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) to the updated list of essential medicine and health supplies list. The new guidelines and the list of essential medicines will be released next year.

The list contains medicines that satisfy the needs of the majority of the population and which, according to the ministry, should always be available in adequate amounts and appropriate dose forms. The medicines are considered to be the most appropriate for use in the Uganda public health system.

Dr Fred Sebisubi, the Assistant Commissioner for Pharmacy at the Ministry of Health says that in the process of updating the list, they are ensuring that drugs that the elderly might need and have been available only at hospital level will be made available at even lower facilities, especially Health Center IVs.

Sebisubi added that in the current guidelines that were approved in 2016, no considerations were made especially for the aging population even as research is increasingly showing that because of declining or ageing functions of organs like the liver and the kidney, some drugs can't be given to this group in big doses because they can take a huge toll on them.

Although he couldn't name specific drugs, he said they intend to remove especially antibiotics which clinicians are reporting to be no longer effective.

In Uganda, the clinical guidelines and medicines lists are always reviewed and updated every after four years after consulting different stakeholders through workshops and meetings where clinicians are asked to provide information regarding efficacy, quality, safety, suitability and cost-effectiveness, among others.

In 2016, about 100 medicines were removed from the list and 140 others included.

Sebisubi, however, said that they are not yet considering the new recommended drugs by the World Health Organisation, which has a number of new antibiotics and cancer treatments, because the cancer treatments are still quite expensive even as they may be necessary for cancer patients.

WHO added to the list, 12 new cancer medicines to, among others, cater for cancer of the prostate and leukaemia which are prevalent here.

For the country, he said the biggest consideration when picking drugs that go on the essential medicines list are those that can cater for 85 percent of disease conditions in Uganda and are provided to public health facilities free of charge by the National Medical Stores. This financial year 238 billion Shillings was budgeted for the procurement of essential medicines and supplies.

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