Prof Patrick Ogwang has asked the High court to dismiss a case filed against him that he's not not the lawful proprietor and inventor of Covidex, a Covid-19 supportive treatment herbal drug.
Covidex drug was recently approved by the Nation Drug Authority (NDA) as a supportive treatment in the management of viral infections and many people have given testimonies about its efficacy in the treatment of Covid-19.
But earlier this month, lawyer George William Alenyo together with the Christian Chamber of Commerce, Agriculture, Industry, Trade and Tourism sued Ogwang together with his company, Jena Herbals Uganda Limited and 12 others for alleged failure to perform their statutory duties.
According to Alenyo, the co-defedants failed to do due diligence to establish the true ownership of Covidex drug, failed to collect taxes and remit it to government coffers, failed to obtain environmental impact assessment of the impact of the ongoing extraction or exploitation of millions of the tree species expected to be used to make millions of veils of Covidex among others.
Thoses sued alongside Ogwang include; National Drug Authority (NDA), Uganda National Bureau of Standards, National Environmental Management Authority, National Forestry Authority, Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST), Uganda Registration and Services Bureau, Pharmaceutical Society of Uganda, Jena Herbals Uganda Limited, Uganda Revenue Authority, Natural Chemotherapeutics Research Institute, Uganda Wildlife Authority and the Attorney General.
Alenyo is seeking orders that would compel Ogwang to remit all money collected from the sales of Covidex to the consolidated fund, claiming it was invented from a public facility, Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST) by a civil servant (Prof Ogwang), who draws a salary from the consolidated fund and used government of Uganda facilities and laboratories and with the staff of the university and Pharma Bio Centre to develop the drug.
In a written response, through his lawyers, Omongole and Company Advocates, Ogwang asks court to dismiss the case, saying it is incompetent, political, and abuse of the court process, and has no legal basis and therefore, it should be dismissed with costs.
Ogwang says the Covidex drug was developed in 2020 at Jena Herbals which is outside MUST using private funds, and the government only disbursed funds to the university in April 2021 for evaluation purposes of an already available product.
He contends that his move to produce the Covidex drug was driven by the government’s call to individuals to come up with a product that could alleviate Covid-19 and that they can't transfer patent rights to the government and her people.
On claims by the applicants that Ogwang uses local forest materials in the production of his drug, the professor says that the Warbugia Ugandenis used to manufacture Covidex is purchased from farmers and not obtained from the forests.
"Anybody can harness nature of his benefits and it is the reason God has provided the plants and the defendants shouldn’t be condemned for harnessing nature which has and is benefiting Ugandans in the treatment of Covid-19," reads the response in part.
According to his defence, Ogwang maintains that he is the inventor of the Covidex drug under Jena Herbals and therefore no need for it to be labelled government and the people of Uganda since 45 million Ugandans can't own an invention and can't be inventors. He adds that an attempt in that direction would suppress invention and innovation in individuals.
Ogwang further contends that his company, Jena Herbals employs more than 200 Ugandans and it “pays various taxes including VAT, Income Tax and PAYE for its employees and it contributes to the revenue of this country and it would be malicious to inject the defendants for no sound reason".
The response also indicates that it was not reasonable to wait for the environment impact assessment while people are dying adding that their actions were determined in an emergency brought by coronavirus disease.
Through his lawyers, Ogwang says that the production Covidex drug can’t be stopped as it's a lifesaving drug unless the applicants want Ugandans to continue dying of the deadly virus. According to Ogwang, Uganda is not a communist country where everyone has to surrender their enterprise to the state.
The other 12 respondents are yet to file their defence to the case which is allocated to civil division judge Musa Ssekaana. There is also another related case against Ogwang filed by Advocates for People (AFP) which is owned by the former Lubaga North MP Moses Kasibante and Elvis Kintu Nsonyi.