The Government of Uganda has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Novartis Access, to increase patients’ access to treatment for Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs). A basket of fifteen high-quality medicines targeting four key NCDs – cardiovascular disease, diabetes, respiratory illnesses, and breast cancer - will be availed countrywide.
Under this MoU, these treatments will be provided to Government at a cost of $1 USD per treatment per month supplied through the National Medical Stores and Joint Medical Stores. The agreement will also cover capacity-building activities for medical practitioners as well as sensitization of the public in prevention and early detection of NCDs.
The first order will include the following drugs across all key NCDs: Valsartan (hypertension), Amlodipine (hypertension and heart failure), Vildagliptin (diabetes), Amoxicillin Dispersible tablets (respiratory infections), Salbutamol (asthma), and Letrozole (breast cancer). These drugs will be available at the public health facilities before end of the year.
The medicines in the portfolio have been selected based on their medical relevance and are currently going through local registration: they are either selected based on the fact that they belong to a class included in the WHO Model List of Essential Medicines, or belong to the most frequently prescribed medicines in these disease areas.
Uganda is facing a significant rise in Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) as a result of urbanization and many other factors. A National NCD risk factor survey conducted in 2014 showed that one in every four adults in Uganda suffers from a Non-Communicable Disease.
Furthermore, the survey revealed that screening for cancer of the cervix, the leading cause of cancer death in Uganda, was only 10% among women aged 30-49 years while 10% of Ugandans aged 18- 69 years have at least three risk factors for NCDs with 20% aged 45-69 years having more than three risk factors.
Some of the common risk factors identified in this survey as contributing to this escalating NCD epidemic in Uganda were Obesity, tobacco use and poor nutrition. A key strategic priority for Uganda is to strengthen a multi-sectoral approach to prevent and control NCDs and their risk factors.
This MoU supports such a collaborative approach and will help to accelerate and scale up the national response to the NCD epidemic. The Ministry of Health has already established an NCD program to coordinate all efforts toward NCD prevention and control.
As part of its commitment to increase awareness on NCDs, in April 2017, a parliamentary forum was held to promote the importance of regular screening, diagnosis and treatment for NCDs. Uganda will become the fourth country in Africa alongside Kenya, Rwanda and Ethiopia to roll out Novartis Access, an initiative to enhance access to healthcare for patients in the lower to emerging middle income classes.
The public is advised to take full advantage of this initiative and present themselves at health facilities for early diagnosis of NCDs, allowing for early treatment and better disease outcomes.