Tue | Mar 19, 2019

Critical drugs shortage hits private pharmacies!

Published:Saturday | June 2, 2018 | 12:00 AMErica Virtue/Senior Gleaner Writer
Rohan McNellie

Drugs, critical to the treatment of long-term conditions such as hyperthyroidism, schizophrenia, and bipolar disease are among more than 50 that are in short supply in private pharmacies, sending patients into long queues at Drug Serv facilities.

The Association of Private Pharmacy Owners (JAPPO) has appealed to the Ministry of Health and local pharmaceutical distributors to address the shortage immediately.

"Last year, a shortage of Carbimazole, a drug used to treat hyperthyroidism (goitre), had patients frantically moving from pharmacy to pharmacy to get supplies. Drugs for schizophrenia, bipolar disease, and epilepsy have also been out of stock," reported Rohan McNellie, president of JAPPO.

In a release, McNellie said that in the past two years, drug shortages have been addressed in other jurisdictions, but the Ministry of Health in Jamaica appeared to be unaware of the shortage.

During an interview with The Gleaner, McNellie said, "Switching persons with mental illnesses to new drugs sometimes causes a lapse in therapy as the patients may not respond well to new treatment. Other crucial medications for medical conditions such as cancer, stroke therapy, hypertension, pain management, Parkinson's, heart and infectious disease are also out of stock."

Among the drugs in short supply are sodium valproate (Epilim) and Keppra syrup, used to treat epilepsy in adults and children, as well as Doxycycline, an antibiotic used to treat certain sexually transmitted infections. He said that the alternatives were more expensive, and if left untreated, could lead to pelvic inflammatory disease. Clindamycin and Erythromycin were also out of stock.

"Some of these drug products are available and can be sourced outside of Jamaica and are easily obtained in pharmacies in other Caribbean countries," McNellie explained.

He said that as a result of the issue, JAPPO had written to the Ministry of Health to advise it of the shortage, and the association was considering applying to the Pharmaceutical and Regulatory Department for permission to import products.