Dr.Aceng Urges Pharmaceutical Industries to Reduce the Costs of Sickle Cell Drugs
By Joan Namulondo
The Minister for Health, Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng has called upon pharmaceutical industries, to reduce the prices of drugs for Sickle Cell citing the high costs of drugs which range from Uganda Sh500m to Sh1.5bn is not affordable for at local market.
Dr. Aceng made these remarks during the official signing of the partnership of the Ministry of Health (MoH) and Novartis, an International Pharmaceutical Company.
Novartis deals in global manufacture of hydroxyurea (HU) the sickle cell disease transforming therapy. The partnership is expected to last five years, where Novartis will be providing accessible, available and affordable drugs in Uganda.
The 2015 Uganda Sickle Cell surveillance study indicated that 13.3% of the total population had Sickle Cell trait and its prevalence is over 15% in high burden areas while 0.7% have sickle cell disease.
SCD contributes 16% to early infant mortality whereby 80% of them die before their 5th birthday and over 20,000 babies are born per year with SCD. The burden has become more pronounced
Dr. Charles Oloya, the Commissioner of Health Services (Non communicable diseases) at MoH said that, “Non communicable diseases, contribute 40% of the mortality rate which include cancer, cardiovascular and chronic respiratory diseases,”
The partnership will ensure procurement of hydroxyl urea to the National Medical stores. She urged the company to make a donation. Dr. Dr. Oloya noted that although COVID-19 is around, other diseases should not be avoided for example Sickle Cells since they also pause a high burden on the mobility and mortality rate.
Dr. Charles Kiyaga, the National Sickle Cell program Coordinator, said, “We have been focusing on diagnostics, mass community sensitization and mobilization like the Kabaka’s run but now focus is on improving clinical care,”
“The partnership further intends to open up 20 Centres but will start with six hospitals that is to say, Mulago, Jinja, Mbale, Lira and Gulu hospital. These will be backed up with satellite clinics and lots of capacity building,” said Dr. Kiyaga.
Racey Muchilwa, the Novartis Head of Sub-Saharan Africa noted that, “Our role is to reimagine the way sickle cell is treated and managed in Africa.”
She added that the partnership will ensure that medicine s and health care in general are affordable and accessible to as many people as possible.