Harare — Members of Uganda's National Drug Authority (NDA) shocked MPs before the House Committee on HIV/AIDS when they admitted that they were aware of the possibly fatal abuse of antiretroviral medications to fatten livestock, Daily Monitor reports.
The legislators were more appalled by the regulator's decision to keep quiet on such a delicate matter even though the alarming procedure might have detrimental, potentially fatal adverse effects for people.
The shocking admission was made in a statement by NDA Senior Inspector of Drugs Amos Atumanya, who claimed that the organization was made aware of the risky practice ten years prior and that an inquiry was carried out in 2014 to confirm the assertions.
"In 2013, the NDA received reports of the misuse of ARVs in pigs and chicken through the pharmacovigilance system," Atumanya reportedly said.
"Unlike the media reports that focused on fattening pigs, we found out that ARVs were mainly used to treat African Swine Fever, also known as pig Ebola. The disease currently has no remedy. In addition, there were reports of the use of ARVs against New Castle Disease in chicken," he said.
Members of the House Committee were nearly rendered speechless when Atumanya revealed that NDA withheld its position on the matter out of concern for how it might affect the nation's economy. The NDA leadership had appeared to react to data that Makerere University College of Health Sciences academics had presented to MPs.
The researchers said that the results of their scientific investigations have established the presence of antiretroviral treatment drugs in farm chicken consumed in Uganda.
"There were traces of efavirenz in chicken tissue and chicken feed samples in Wakiso District hence potential exposure [of humans] to sub-therapeutic concentrations of the Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) medicines," the researchers' said.
Efavirenz is a potent anti-HIV medication that works best when combined with other antiretroviral medications. It functions by lowering the level of HIV in blood.
In the evidence provided to the committee, the researchers from Makerere University said that "the main reason for ARV usage in farm chicken is mainly economic; quick profit gains arising from anticipated early growth and fattening of chicken."
Further information presented to the committee reveals that farmers and/or other ARV abusers are smuggling the drugs from public health facilities and some HIV/Aids patients. According to reports, some people register HIV/Aids patients more than once at medical facilities, allowing them to obtain two prescriptions for drugs that are typically severely restricted.
MPs were alarmed even more when Atumanya revealed that eating chicken fattened with ARVs could not only make HIV/Aids negative people resistant to the life-saving medicine if they contracted the virus, but could also lead to hypertension, a potentially fatal heart condition.