The deterioration of government health services in Uganda since 1971 has been accompanied by a process of privatization which has made pharmaceuticals readily available outside of biomedical institutions. On the basis of material from eastern Uganda, the article analyses this development in terms of the 'sector model' of health care systems, with special attention to the relations between the professional and folk sectors. Folk practitioners of pharmaceutical medicine include a broad range of specialists, from government trained paramedicals in private practice to vendors bringing medicine to local markets. Like other folk specialists, they respect the customer's opinion, provide treatment by proxy and adjust their services to the customer's ability to pay. Although there are negative aspects of this development, from the local point of view there are also positive ones, which deserve the consideration of health planners.