The Government of The Bahamas will introduce two “important” pieces of proposed legislation to Parliament that are designed to prevent the importation of “illegitimate and/or fake” pharmaceutical products into the local market and to make access to affordable medications much easier, Minister of Health Dr. the Hon. Hubert Minnis said.
Dr. Minnis said the two pieces of legislation, if approved by Parliament, will not only protect members of the public from “unscrupulous” persons and practices, but will also result in the availability of cost-effective drugs to those persons who may be least able to afford them.
The proposed legislation is also expected to lead to the establishment of the Bahamas Pharmacy Council which will be responsible for regulating the pharmaceutical profession; the establishment of a Prescription Drug Plan that will provide access to more cost-effective drugs for the treatment of chronic diseases and specified medical conditions, and the establishment of a Drug Fund that will fall under the control and management of the National Insurance Board.
It is also expected to lead to a reduction in the time patients have to wait to receive medications at the Princess Margaret Hospital or any of the government-owned health clinics; to lead to patients being able to receive their medications at any participating private pharmacy, and to result in all senior citizens receiving their medications at no cost, among other key benefits for residents who fall within specified categories.
Addressing the Opening of the Bahamas Pharmaceutical Association’s second annual Pharmaceutical Summit, Dr. Minnis said while there are many individuals and by extension agencies that seek to promote and maintain a high standard within the pharmaceutical profession, the profession is “rife” with unscrupulous individuals who are involved at the sales, distribution and manufacturing levels.
“With this knowledge, it is therefore necessary for any well-thinking government to take action to prevent the importation of illegitimate and/or fake products from entering the local market and reaching an unsuspecting public,” Dr. Minnis said.
“The Government of The Bahamas, through the Ministry of Health, endeavors to take the relevant steps to protect the Bahamian public by ensuring that the appropriate guidelines, policies and legislation are in place beginning with these two new and important pieces of legislation,” Dr. Minnis added.
Dr. Minnis said the first of the two pieces of legislation is the Pharmacy Act, which will provide for the regulation and control of the pharmacy practice and for the registration and licensing of persons qualified to practice in pharmacies.
The Act would also lead to the establishment for the Bahamas Pharmacy Council and for other matters connected thereto.
“The general purpose of this Act is to regulate the pharmacy practice and the conduct of all persons throughout the country that are engaged in the profession,” Dr. Minnis said. “Pertinent aspects of the profession are defined and addressed in the proposal which include issues such as manufacturing, dispensing, clinical applications and distribution.”
The Health Minister said the Council would serve as the governing body, responsible for regulating the profession and the professionals working within it. He said it would further be able to “modify and make regulations” as changes occur in the profession.
The second and equally as important piece of legislation to be brought before Parliament, he said, is expected to lead to the establishment of a programme for the supply of certain pharmaceutical products at government-owned and other health facilities “at an economic cost” in the treatment of certain chronic diseases.
The Act allows for the establishment of a Prescription Drug Plan which has been designed to improve access to cost-effective drugs for the treatment of specific chronic diseases and specified medical conditions and to reduce the financial burden of beneficiaries in respect of the purchase of prescription drugs and specified medical supplies.
“Additionally, this Act also establishes a Drug Fund which shall be under the control and management of the National Insurance Board,” Dr. Minnis said. “The benefits from this Fund shall be provided to all residents who fall within specified categories.”
Dr. Minnis said the Fund will cover specific illnesses thus ensuring that individuals with these diseases can receive their medications on a “timely and uninterrupted basis.”
“No longer will patients have to wait on long lines at the Princess Margaret Hospital or any government clinics for their medications,” Dr. Minnis said. “(Instead) Individuals will be able to receive their medications at any participating private pharmacy.
“Patients travelling within The Bahamas will also be able to receive their medications from any participating pharmacy on any island (while) senior citizens will receive their medications at no cost,” Dr. Minnis added.