Radiotherapy Interruption Fuels Cancer Drug Stock Outs at Mulago

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In short
The Executive Director of Uganda Cancer Institute Dr Jackson Orem says that since the radiotherapy machine broke down almost a month ago, all patients were enrolled on chemotherapy, a type of cancer treatment in which a patient is given drugs that are designed to kill cancer cells.

The breakdown of the radiotherapy machine at Uganda Cancer Institute-UCI forced cancer patients to resort to chemotherapy triggering drug stock outs.

The Executive Director of Uganda Cancer Institute Dr Jackson Orem says that since the radiotherapy machine broke down almost a month ago, all patients were enrolled on chemotherapy, a type of cancer treatment in which a patient is given drugs that are designed to kill cancer cells.

Orem says that the increase in the numbers of cancer patients on chemotherapy was never matched with an increase in the supply of drugs.

More than 33,000 cancer patients were benefiting from radiotherapy services at the institute.

Patients interviewed by URN at Uganda Cancer Institute said they are being asked to buy drugs from private facilities.

Some cancer drugs that are out of stock include Zofran 8mg that is sold at 40,000 Shillings in most pharmacies in Wandegeya and Plasil 10mg that costs between 40,000 and 45,000 Shillings per packet.  A dose of the said medication comprises of up to three packets for each patient.

Several patients are seen carrying bottles of morphine, a drug commonly used to control extreme pain.

One of the patients, speaking on condition of anonymity, told URN that she has increased her intake of morphine because the pain is now unbearable. "The pain is too much and I cannot follow the prescription because every time I feel pain, I just swallow as much as possible to kill the pain." she says

Olive Nakimuli, another patient battling cervical cancer says she has been receiving treatment from the institute since 2008. She however says that unlike in the past when she used to get all the drugs from Uganda Cancer Institute, currently she buys half of the drugs she needs.
 
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Mable Nakafeero, a mother, has spent over one month at the hospital taking care of her son who is suffering from leukemia. She says she is losing hope because the cost of treating her son is beyond her means.

 
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Dr Orem is however optimistic that the passing of the Uganda Cancer Institute Bill, which makes UCI an autonomous body, will help improve the supply of drugs at the facility.

 
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Oncologists usually suggest a combination of chemotherapy and radiation treatment especially for patients with advanced stage cancer, where cancerous cells have spread beyond the organ where the cancer originated.

 

About the author

Beatrice Nyangoma
Beatrice Nyangoma values her independence as a journalist. This was one of her major considerations before she became a URN staffer in 2015.

Nyangoma says, "I like URN because it gives me room to decide what stories I want to work on. That is so important to me."

The URN Jinja bureau chief since July 2016, Nyangoma considers health matters a beat close to her heart. One of the highlights of her career so far were her exclusive interviews unveiling the rot in Mulago hospital in early 2016.

Nyangoma started out writing for the Red Pepper newspaper in 2011 in her final year of university. She was majorly a health reporter. In 2012, Nyangoma moved to Top Television as a health, business reporter and weekend news editor. She was also the assistant editorial manager of Kabarole Research and Resource Centre FM (KRC FM).