This in not an official U.S. Department of State (DOS) blog and the views and information presented are my own and do not represent the Fulbright Program or the DOS.
On Tuesday, after the visit to Naguru Hospital, Vicky took me to her Community Pharmacy. This is a brand new venture for her. Although she had future plans of owning her own pharmacy, this one just kind of fell into her lap. A pharmacist had been trying to sell it for a while but had no luck. Eventually he lowered the price such that Vicky just had to buy it. It is in a little shopping center off of a main road, which makes it nice and safe, and also is associated with other businesses including an Indian Restaurant and a hair salon. She took me to eat at the restaurant and it was quite delicious. Indian food is something that I don’t get a chance to eat much of at home but here in Uganda, there are oodles of good Indian restaurants.
Vicky employs a nurse who mans the pharmacy during the day. She has been teaching the nurse all about drugs and just about everyday she gives her a new lesson. In Uganda, a pharmacy can be owned by a businessman or woman (or a pharmacist) but they must have a pharmacist licensed as the “supervisor” of the store to conduct business. But, this doesn’t mean the pharmacist has to be there in order for drugs to be dispensed. In fact, because there are so few pharmacists in the country, they are allowed to supervise 2 pharmacies and only have to be at each one at least 40% of the time. Pharmacy technicians, but more often nurses, are allowed to dispense and sell medication when a pharmacist isn’t present.
Since Vicky is just starting her business she has had to purchase her entire stock of drugs and she goes there everyday after working a full day at Naguru Hospital to give her nurse some time off in the evening. One other thing that is quite different from the USA about private pharmacies is that they have to carry numerous brand names of the same drug products. Patients will ask for a brand by name and insist upon it. Most of the times this has to do with the country which manufactured the drugs- the more reputable the source, the more expensive the product. Drugs from Europe and the USA (although these are rare) are the most sought after by patients who have money. The cheapest drugs come from India but it is commonly thought that many of these products are sub-par. In the USA we mostly carry generic drugs and are always used to explaining to our patients that these cheaper alternatives are exactly the same as the brand name product, in most circumstances, and are safe and effective. In fact, most insurance companies won’t pay for brand name drugs when equally effective generic drugs are available. Of course, medications at all government facilities in Uganda are free and patients who have no money to pay for their care, willingly take the free drugs from India and are happy to have those.