Kampala- Ugandan drug manufacturers are crying foul over imports of pharmaceutical products that can be manufactured in Uganda. The Uganda Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association (UPMA)’s complaint is that some imported drugs are already being manufactured locally in Uganda.

As a result, the association is engaging government on how to impose restrictions on 50 imported medicines.
“Out of 5,000 pharmaceutical products, we have only selected about 50 products where a restriction can be placed. If the imports reduce, then we can also increase our production.

This would create more job opportunities, support the local packaging industry and also boost production of cotton, among others,” says Mr Ramesh Babu, the chairperson UPMA.

One local player is Rene Industries Limited, located in Kireka, Wakiso District. Founded in 1996, the factory management says they are stuck with some stock because they cannot compete favourably with international manufacturers.

“The imported drugs from China and India enter the Ugandan market after enjoying economies of scale because they are large-scale producers. Our costs of production are higher in Uganda, meaning our products could be about 10 per cent higher in terms of price,” Mr Rishi Vadodaria, the managing director, Rene Industries Limited, said.

With four major local players in the drug manufacturers segment of the market, Uganda is estimated to import 70 per cent of its Essential Medicines and Health Supplies needs. Additionally, of all the almost 500 licensed pharmacies in Uganda, locally sourced pharmaceuticals have to compete with imported medicines.

“If we get exemptions on some products, I am sure the cost of medicine will still be within the affordable range for the consumer because there is a lot of margin at the retail level,” he further explained; adding: “For drugs, we do not manufacture, let the imports prevail but we insist there should be restrictions on the importation of drugs we manufacture.”

Daily Monitor understands that this is an industry problem. The major players in the market include Kampala Pharmaceutical Industries, Abacus Pharmaceuticals, Rene Industries and Cipla Quality Chemical Industries.

The estimation is that almost all the pharmaceutical companies in Uganda are operating below installed capacity.

This means the factories are underutilised yet the cost of investment has to be recovered. Nonetheless, their costs will be further impacted by higher costs of energy, which the imported drugs do not face.

In 2012, the government announced a price preference policy that favours local manufacturers by giving them a 15 per cent price advantage in National Medical Stores procurements. But international firms still supply the bulk up to a tune of 60 per cent.

Meanwhile, government came under fire for purchasing drugs locally at a higher price in the name of supporting local industry; with the audit saying: “We recommend that government explores alternative mechanisms of supporting local industries that do not compromise on the supply and availability of life-saving HIV treatment medicines.”

mmuhumuza@ug.nationmedia.com