Tuesday 23 July, 2019

Pharmacies reported for bogus drugs

At least five pharmacies have been reported to the police for the sale of unregistered drugs.

Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh said files prepared by the Ministry’s legal department have been forwarded to the authorities, who will “take an interest in these files and do the necessary prosecution”.

The Minister was responding to a question from Opposition Senator Wade Mark regarding protection for the public against sub-standard and fake pharmaceutical drugs.

His response in the Upper House follows criticism from former health minister Dr Fuad Khan who knocked his response on treating with the issue of bogus drugs entering the country.

Deyalsingh informed the Senate that the Chemistry, Food and Drugs Division was instructed a year ago to step up surveillance on unregistered drugs which resulted in the five unnamed pharmacies being reported.

“This is a significant improvement over the years 2010 to 2015 where not one pharmacy was brought to book. Today, in one year, we have brought to book at least three to five pharmacies,” he said.  

Surveillance was also stepped up at the country’s ports of entry with Inspectors from the Food, Chemistry and Drugs Division tasked with examining import documents to ensure that registered drugs are brought in by bonafide importers.

Acknowledging that the situation is of national importance, Deyalsingh said the Ministry would continue to do its part by investigating pharmacies and forwarding the relevant files to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution and the police.

He said, however, that there is a lot of personal responsibility on the part of pharmacy owners as without the demand generated at the level of pharmacies, there would be no supply.

Noting that pharmacists take an oath to act ethically, Deyalsingh said it was ‘inconceivable’ that there would be pharmacists knowingly purchasing unregistered drugs and pharmaceuticals from non-traditional suppliers.

The Division currently operating with eight persons, while full complement is 12. A request is currently before the Public Service Commission and the Office of the Chief Personnel Officer to have those vacancies filled. 

According to the World Health Organisation, the sale of counterfeit pharmaceuticals opens the door to sometimes toxic products. At least 10.5 percent of drugs in low and middle-income countries were found to be fake or substandard in a 2007 - 2016 study.

Apart from having serious side effects, poor-quality drugs also add to the danger of antibiotic resistance, undermining the effectiveness life-saving medicines in future.


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