The National Drug Authority has described as highly exaggerated reports that antiretrovirals (ARVs) were being given to pigs and chickens to treat and fatten them through animal feeds.
In a statement, Abiaz Rwamiri, the spokesperson of NDA, said if there was a health risk it would have warned the public, while insisting the authority’s job was to regulate drugs, not food or animal feed.
“The NDA is mandated to regulate the drugs, not food or animal feeds,” he said.
“If there was any public health threat concerning the drugs under use, the NDA would be the first one to come out and warn the public as we always do. The NDA remains vigilant and committed to ensuring that Ugandans have access to safe, efficacious and quality medicines,” Rwamwiri added.
He explained that the regulator had launched several actions to stop the misuse of drugs, which led to several arrests and prosecutions.
“Since such reports concern the misuse of drugs, the NDA conducted investigations and a scientific review and determined that the reported levels were very low to cause unnecessary public alarm,” the NDA said in a statement.
Mr Amos Atumanya, the Senior Inspector of Drugs at NDA, had earlier told Parliament’s Committee on HIV that the drug regulator learnt about the malpractice 10 years ago, and conducted an investigation in 2014 to verify the claims.
“…We have known about them, [and] we are trying to do something about it, but there are some concerns that if we blow it out of proportion, what does it mean for the economy if you are going to export food? So, we are trying to find ways in which to manage that situation,” Mr Atumanya said.
He added, “it is in that context that you find that whereas we have known about that issue for some time, we are taking some measures without necessarily having to alarm the whole country.”
He said it became aware anti-retrovirals were being given to pigs and chickens to treat them but insisted that levels were too low to cause public alarm.
The National Medical Stores (NMS) have said they are not the source of Antiretroviral drugs being reportedly used by some livestock farmers on their animals.
The drugs are used to treat HIV/AIDS in humans. NMS’s response comes on the heels of an admission by the National Drug Authority to Parliament’s HIV Committee on Wednesday, that they turned a blind eye to findings of the use of ARVs to feed and treat some diseases in livestock like chicken and pigs.
This was after a recent report by Makerere University found that more than a third of chicken and 50% of pork it tested contained traces of antiretroviral drugs. The meat was sourced from markets in the capital, Kampala, and the northern city of Lira.
The NDA’s report back in 2014, found that antiretrovirals were mainly used to treat African swine fever which is also known as Pig Ebola and currently has no cure. It also verified claims that ARVs were being used to treat Newcastle disease in chickens