‘Quacks’, ‘bush doctors’ in for heavy scrutiny

CMO, Dr. Shamdeo Persaud

– as stakeholders meet to help bring errant pharmaceutical sector in line

THE Public Health Ministry in conjunction with the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) is meeting with key stakeholders with the view of strengthening the country’s Pharmaceuticals Acts and Regulations.

The two-day consultative forum opened here on Monday at Parc Rayne Rahaman’s Park with the aim of reviewing, strengthening and making current the Food and Drug Act and Regulations, the Antibiotics Act and Regulations, the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act and Regulations, the Pharmacy Practitioners Act and the Pharmacy and Poisons Ordinance.

Guyana’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Shamdeo Persaud, who was among health officials that addressed the forum, said while there may not be a need for additional legislation with respect to pharmaceuticals, there is an obvious need for existing legislation and regulations to be strengthened. Enforcement in some cases remains a major problem, he told those present.

Stakeholders at Monday’s consultative forum

Pointing out that the pharmaceutical industry is rapidly growing, Dr. Persaud said at times it can become challenging for global organisations to put in place regulations that would monitor the production, distribution and sale of pharmaceuticals, and provide the necessary protection the global population needs from abuse or misuse of any medication or pharmaceuticals. However, these regulations are necessary, and when established should be followed rigidly.

Stating that the consultation is being held at a critical time, the CMO said there is increasing pressure about the use of non-traditional medicines. He said that every day, there are claims of herbal and non-traditional medicines having the ability to cure persons of HIV/AIDS, cancer and diabetes, among other diseases, but warned that once therapeutic value is given to these “alternative medicines”, they must be composed, distributed and sold in compliance with the Food and Drug Act and Regulations. He noted that there is some move by the WHO to integrate alternate medicine into some medical practice.
Chairman of the Georgetown Public Hospital (GPHC) Board Kesaundra Alves, in her presentation, said effective regulation of medicines promotes and protects public health by ensuring medicines are of the required quality, safety and efficacy. It also ensures that medicines are appropriately manufactured, stored, distributed and dispensed among other things.

On Friday, Director of Pharmacies at the Public Health Ministry Oneil Atkins had said that the purpose of the consultation was to help beef up the existing “weak” medicine and pharmaceutical policies.
It is anticipated that although the archaic policies, laws, acts and regulations will be updated and be substantially more rigid, they will retain the element of “flexibility to ensure safety to ensure they provide maximum benefit from the medication” for patients Atkins assured.

He expressed concern about the abuse of antibiotic medicines among practitioners and patients, and said the upgraded documents will force the former to be “more responsible and accountable”, and help keep counterfeit drugs off the local market.
According to Atkins, the “widespread abuse” is especially acute in Regions Two (Pomeroon-Supenaam); Three (Essequibo Islands-West Demerara); Four (Demerara-Mahaica); and Six (East Berbice-Corentyne).
Consequently, he is hoping that legislators will act “as fast as possible” to get the new laws and regulations enacted to help the Public Health Ministry deal with the “grave problem with antibiotics resistance in Guyana.”
Improvements are also in urgent need to help the government weed out many who are dispensing medicines, but “never saw a pharmacy school”.
The long-overdue overhauling of the pharmaceutical sector is to help “administer the quality of primary healthcare and health services to the citizens of our beloved country,” Minister Lawrence had pointed out last year when the issue became public.
She’d said back then that when improved “…policy decisions must be evidence-based and tailored to meet the specific needs of our population and health services”.
The Guyana Government, she said, remains strongly committed to ensuring healthy lives and the wellbeing for all, and promises to continue to look and assess the existing management systems, and strengthen them and make necessary changes to guarantee that the systems “can become efficient and effective and accessibility and adequacy of the supply of safe, essential, quality and scientifically sound drugs and medical products can be realised in all health facilities in all regions.”