The National Drug Authority (NDA), in collaboration with the Uganda Police, has apprehended seven suspects involved in the illegal possession and sale of government drugs and medical equipment worth over Shs 300 million.
The arrests were made during a targeted enforcement operation conducted in Ntoroko and Kyenjojo Districts.
Among the suspects are Samuel Lan Mwesige, the in-charge of Bweramule Health Centre III, Mary Mbabazi, an enrolled nurse who was also responsible for the Health Centre's storeroom, and Alex Mbusa, a porter at Bweramule Health Centre III in Ntoroko district.
Mbusa Alex was found in possession of drugs at his home in Karugutu town and confessed to selling them to individuals who transported them to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
In Kyenjojo district, other suspects were arrested, including Assistant Inspector of Police (AIP) Kule Yusuf Katuramu, a police officer who also works as a Health Officer at Kyenjojo Police Health Centre II, Denis Blessing, the proprietor of Denis Pharmaceuticals in Kyenjojo, Isingoma Isiah, and Bwamabale Tom.
During the intelligence-led operation, numerous government drugs and medical supplies were recovered, including over 100 tins of ARVs, antimalarials, 80 cartons of malaria test strips, 100 boxes of HIV and Hepatitis B test strips, unpacked antibiotics and paracetamol, and 12 jerricans of laboratory reagents, among others.
Denis Blessing, the main perpetrator involved in diverting government drugs in the region, had been posing as a pharmacist from Buhinga Hospital in Fort Portal. He operated an illegal pharmacy called Denis's Pharmaceuticals and conducted unlicensed mobile distribution using motorcycles in Kitangwenda, Kyegegwa, and Kyenjojo, targeting remote areas such as Kyarushozi.
Authorities confiscated over 32 cartons of assorted drugs suspected to be relabelled and repackaged government drugs from Denis's Pharmaceuticals.
The pilfering of drugs intended for government facilities not only deprives the public of their right to access healthcare but also has long-lasting consequences for the country's development and erodes trust in the healthcare system.
Furthermore, the improper storage of the recovered drugs and diagnostic kits poses potential risks to their safety, quality, and efficacy.
The presence of incompetent personnel, such as a casual worker at the hospital, puts the lives of Ugandans at great risk.
Abiaz Rwamwiri, the Public Relations Manager of NDA, stated that the suspects are currently held at Fort Portal Police Station.
They will face charges of unlawful possession of government stores, in violation of section 316 of the Penal Code, carrying on the business of a pharmacist without a license, as stipulated by the National Drug Policy and Authority (NDA/P) Act, and unlawful possession of classified drugs.
Rwamwiri urged individuals who were involved in the diversion of government drugs to be charged with corruption and abuse of office.
The public is encouraged to remain vigilant and report any cases of government drug sales to the authorities.