An operation led by the National Drug Authority (NDA) in Kyenjojo and Ntoroko districts has resulted in the recovery of stolen government medicines worth sh300m.
During the operation, seven individuals were apprehended, including a police officer and two government-employed medics. The suspects are identified as Assistant Inspector of Police Yusuf Katuramu (attached to Kyenjojo Police Health Centre), Samuel Mwesige (in-charge of Bweramule Health Centre in Ntoroko district), and Mary Mbabazi, an enrolled nurse at Bweramule Health Centre. Others include Alex Mbusa, a porter at Bweramule Health Centre; Denis Blessing, the proprietor of Denis Pharmacy in Kyenjojo district, along with alleged accomplices Isaiah Isingoma and Tom Bwambale.
Recovered medicines displayed during a press briefing included over 100 tins of ARVs, 80 tins of malaria testing strips, 100 boxes of HIV testing strips, 12 jerricans of laboratory reagents, unpacked antibiotics, and paracetamol. Some of the government-branded drugs had been relabeled and repackaged.
Preliminary investigations suggest that some of the stolen government medicines were being illegally exported to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Mbusa, one of the suspects, confessed to selling medicines to the DRC through brokers.
Denis, another suspect, posed as a pharmacist at Fort Portal Regional Referral Hospital and operated an illegal pharmacy in Kyenjojo district. He was also involved in unlicensed mobile distribution of medicines to remote districts.
The National Drug Authority expressed concern about the improper storage of the medicines and diagnostic kits, which compromised their safety, quality, and efficacy. Some of the medicines were found in inadequate storage conditions, such as the roof ceiling.
All seven suspects are held at the Fort Portal Central Police Station, with the police officer facing potential disciplinary action and dismissal. Charges against the suspects include unlawful possession of government stores, illegal possession of classified drugs, illegal operation of a pharmacy, and abuse of office.
As investigations continue, supervisors of the suspects who failed to safeguard government medicines may also face charges. The recovered medicines will be presented as court exhibits, and their fate will be decided by the court, possibly including their destruction due to quality concerns. Currently, all exhibits are stored at the Rwenzori Regional Police Headquarters in Fort Portal.