Perhaps you could help?

By Dr.Ian Magrath

Recently, a hospital in Northern Uganda ran out of chemotherapy drugs. It was not due to incompetence – they had ordered drugs in September (INCTR had been providing them with funding for this purpose). Unfortunately, the hospital ran out of drugs before those they had ordered arrived. To my knowledge, they have still not arrived. The reason is multifactor – chemotherapy drugs are no longer stocked in the major suppliers (all drugs must be imported), since the government drug supplier receives funds from the government for all government hospitals, giving it the opportunity to create a monopoly, and discouraging, therefore, the suppliers of medicines, particularly the more expensive (such as chemotherapy drugs) from stocking drugs that they may well not be able to sell. This means that the drug suppliers only order from abroad (usually India) when non-government hospitals (e.g., mission hospitals) place an order. The Indian company may delay in sending drugs since they like to make separate batches especially for the export market but will only do so once they have accumulated enough orders to ensure that they are maximizing profit. So drugs expected last Friday, did not arrive. Many children are likely to die as a consequence, with rather limited palliative care available. The were told to go to Uganda’s main government run Cancer Institute in Kampala, but they cannot afford either the journey or the cost of lodging in Kampala (to say nothing of treatment costs).

What is to be done? Perhaps you could help. Certainly by donating money so that the cost burden can be lifted from the family’s shoulders (e.g., via Global Giving accessible via INCTR’s website www.inctr.org), but perhaps in some other way. We’ll be exploring what can be done in the coming days and weeks, but we shall not be able to save the lives of new patients unless drugs can be sent to Uganda very quickly (often impossible given the bureaucratic hurdles of re-registration of drugs even if already registered with one supplier, with each new drug supplier, and the strict examinations that take place in customs. Many of the people living in poorer countries face problems of this kind, and even those in wealthy countries from time to time. Your ideas would be welcome.

You can write a response to this below. Is it right that we let these children die for reasons of bureaucracy, profits of the providers of drugs, and perhaps other issues that we’d rather not talk about?

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