Ugandan Officials Arrest People Suspected of Stealing, Reselling Donated Antifungal Drug
Ugandan officials have arrested 15 people suspected of stealing and then reselling antifungal medication donated for free distribution to low-income HIV/AIDS patients, the Ugandan New Vision/AllAfrica.com reports. U.S.-based pharmaceutical maker Pfizer in February donated 290,000 tablets of Diflucan, an antifungal medication used for the treatment of cryptococcal meningitis and oesphageal candidiasis in people with HIV/AIDS, to Uganda. The pills were distributed to approximately 110 health facilities around the country, but some were intercepted by "some unscrupulous people," according to Health Minister Jim Muhwezi (Kamali, Ugandan New Vision/AllAfrica.com, 9/24). The stolen tablets, which had been packaged in bottles marked "Donation Program -- Not for Sale," were then resold for "at least" $2 a piece at clinics and pharmacies. The theft was first detected by Pfizer officials, who notified Ugandan law enforcement officials, who launched an investigation. All of those arrested are "health workers and business men." Muhwezi called the theft "very serious" and a "shame," adding, "It's scary to imagine what (donors), who are concerned about our suffering, think what type of people we are" (BBC News, 9/24). Robert Ssegawa, one of the suspects in custody and the operator of Recos Pharmacy in Kampala, said that officials had "arrested the wrong people" in connection with the thefts. "I can assure you that we are the small fish. We are sacrificial lambs. The big fish are still out there," he said (New Vision/AllAfrica.com, 9/24).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.