The National Drug Authority (NDA) on October 30, 2019 issued a public statement recalling two batches of Life Guard condoms; that is, batch numbers 190402205 and 19050105.
These condoms had been rolled out or made available to Ugandans by Marie Stopes without final tests to ascertain their safety, quality and ruling out any other defect by NDA in their laboratories.
During an interview by the press with the outgoing state minister of Health, Sarah Opendi, she warned that there could be serious health implications for the end users of these untested condoms.
She further said the risk of catching sexually transmitted diseases is high and appealed to Ugandans who could have used Life Guard condoms during the period of April to October to go and get tested.
This has caused a lot of psychological torture and mental anguish among many Ugandans who could have used them considering that Life Guard condoms are a choice of many because they are price-friendly and have been on market for some time, hence appreciated by many people.
The truth of the matter is that many Ugandans used these defective condoms but because of the morality context of it, people may not be willing to come up in the public.
Hardly a month later, through the Joint Medical Stores, another set of assorted medical drugs manufactured by Zhejiang Ruixin pharmaceuticals Co. Ltd. were recalled. These drugs included Gentamycin, Diclofenac injection, and Lidocaine injection, among others.
It’s important to note that these recalled drugs are fast-moving drugs and have been on the market for some time and people who have been using them are afraid of their adverse effects. NDA has come out to say that these drugs are not fit for use. However, it has not confirmed or ruled out any adverse effects.
Fresh in our mind is a batch of falsified hepatitis B vaccine that was on the market for some time until it was discovered by NDA that it was a counterfeit. This caused psychological trauma to many Ugandans that had received the so-called falsified vaccine. A number of people said the counterfeit vaccine had caused impotence, which the NDA came out at a later stage to dispute.
National Drug Authority is mandated to ensure that essential, safe, efficacious and cost-effective drugs are made available to the entire population of Uganda and this to be done through the control of quality, importation, exportation and sale of pharmaceuticals.
It is my submission that National Drug Authority and Ugandans are in a fiduciary relationship in regard to safe and quality medicine. National Drug Authority owes all Ugandans a duty of care to ensure only safe and quality drugs are availed to Ugandans. When these drugs are untested, defective and falsified and are rolled out or made available to Ugandans, then NDA is failing on its mandate.
National Drug Authority would have breached its duty of care, it owes Ugandans. The mental anguish and psychological trauma experienced by Ugandans for using defective, untreated and low-quality drugs is the damage suffered.
It is against this backdrop that National Drug Authority has to up its game; otherwise, it will be liable for medical negligence associated with breach of public trust and duty of care it owes to all Ugandans.
I appreciate efforts of National Drug Authority in recalling defective, unsafe and poor-quality drugs. But this issue is becoming recurrent and Ugandans are continuously being subjected to unsafe and poor-quality drugs.
Some of these recalled drugs have not been fully recovered from pharmacies, drug shops and even street vendors because all types of condoms are sold on the street during the nightlife of most towns around Uganda.
The National Drug Authority should put up sanctions to pharmacies or drug shops including street vendors that are still selling the impugned drugs and condoms. That’s the only way Ugandans will be safe from fake, not-fit-to-use drugs.
The author is dentist and advocate, High court of Uganda.