Prof Ogwang, govt sued over Covidex ownership, sale

A lawyer has sued government alongside Prof. Patrick Ogwang over the ownership and sale of Covidex, a drug said to treat Covid-19.

The National Drug Authority (NDA) last month cleared Covidex for use by the public but also allowed Jena Herbals Uganda Limited to do mass production.

In the suit filed before the Civil Division of the High Court in Kampala, lawyer George William Alenyo together with the Christian Chamber of Commerce, Agriculture, Industry, Trade and Tourism sued government for failure to establish the true ownership of Covidex and failure to collect and remit proceeds from the herbal medicine’s sale to government coffers.

According to court documents, when the NRM government came to power in 1986, in one of its programs, it aimed at creating a vibrant health sector for Ugandans and that later in 1989, the government together with their counterparts from Cuba signed a solidarity agreement to benefit the people of Uganda and this led to the establishment of Mbarara University of Science and Technology.

In the suit, the petitioners say that government using a World Bank facilitation established the Pharma Biotechnology and Traditional Medicine  Centre(PHARMBIOTRAC) at Mbarara University as one of the Eastern and Southern Africa Higher Education Centres for Excellence in Uganda to promote herbal and natural products whereas Prof Ogwang is public servant was cleared by the National Drug Authority to sell and collect revenue for Covidex yet the herbal drug was development at a government facility.

They say this is illegal.

“The plaintiffs aver that actions of the first defendant (Prof. Ogwang) to attempt to own another’s (government) patent on Covidex in trust for the people of Uganda, is unlawful and the first defendant ought to be condemned to general damages and a permanent injunction to be issued against him to claim Covidex patent,” court documents read in part.

“The Attorney General abdicated  his role to ensure a constitutionally enacted legal framework for government’s share in Covidex proceeds whereas the Public Service Commission failed  to regulate civil servants abusing their offices, government protocols and facilities for their personal benefit.”

In the suit, the petitioners want court to declare that Covidex is a property of the government of Uganda having been developed at a government facility using government funds and by public servants paid by government.

The petitioners consequently want Uganda Revenue Authority to start collecting funds from the sale of Covidex and remit them to the consolidated fund since the herbal medicine is a government product.

In the suit, National Drug Authority, National Forestry Authority, Uganda Registration and Services Bureau,Uganda National Bureau of Standards, NEMA,  Mbarara University of Science and Technology, , Pharmaceutical Society of Uganda, Jena Herbals Uganda Limited, Uganda Revenue Authority, Natural Chemotherapeutics Research Institute, Uganda Wildlife Authority and the Attorney General have been listed as respondents.

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