Pharmagen denies giving IPA permission to import narcotics

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Pharmagen International Inc has denied giving permission to the International Pharmaceutical Agency (IPA) to import narcotic drugs on its behalf.

Pharmagen told Guyana Times that it has held and maintained the licence to import narcotics in Guyana for the last 26 years.

“We are fully stocked and have the ability to supply any quantity that is required by Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) or any other licensed customer,” the company explained.

Pharmagen noted that it has built a reputation as a reliable and ethical supplier to hospitals, doctors and pharmacies, and has earned the privilege of being allowed to uphold and maintain its licence with the Government Analyst-Food and Drug Department (GA-FDD) to import narcotics in Guyana.

“Under no circumstance was IPA given the permission to import under a Pharmagen International licence. Further, we have no intention of giving permission to IPA or any other distributor to import under our established licence,” the company said.

IPA insiders had told Guyana Times that the company was not registered to import those categories of drugs and was, therefore, denied a licence by the Food and Drug Department on that basis.

This newspaper understands that an overseas supplier that is registered to market its products in Guyana had sourced IPA to sell the narcotic drugs locally through a market authorisation certificate.

However, IPA was denied the licence to import the narcotic drug nonetheless.

Public Health Minister Volda Lawrence has revealed that in 2016 and 2017, several firms were awarded contracts to supply pharmaceuticals to the health sector but failed to deliver. This resulted in shortages that led to her authorising an “emergency’ contract for $650 million to ANSA McAL.

IPA was one of those companies that failed to supply all of the drugs it was awarded because it was not qualified to import some specialised pharmaceuticals.

In January 2016, IPA, which is owned by Alliance For Change (AFC) funder Lloyd Singh, was awarded two contracts to supply the Georgetown Public Hospital with pharmaceuticals and medical supplies. On one of the contracts for $36.5 million, the company only delivered 80 per cent of the pharmaceuticals, because it was not qualified to supply the remainder.

The remaining 20 per cent consisted of narcotics, including morphine, which required special certification for importation.

After being denied the licence, IPA had to inform the authorities of its inability to supply the remainder of the drugs and settle the difference, which amounted to some $5.5 million. This was an object lesson as to why the prequalification of suppliers based on objective criteria established by the World Health Organisation-World Bank had been established by the previous Administration. This was jettisoned by the A Partnership for National Unity/AFC coalition Government.

Minister Lawrence has complained of practices where contracts were being awarded to suppliers unable to supply the drugs, thus resulting in drug shortage crises across the country.

During the budget debate in February 2016, Dr Karen Cummings, the Government’s point-person on health, alluded to the cancellation of the prequalification-based contract with the NEW GPC in October 2015, and said, “Mr Speaker, open, competitive bidding is on the horizon… This APNU/AFC Government will ensure that it does not water the hard-earned taxpayers’ dollars on enriching the pockets of the undeserving.”

The Public Health Ministry claimed to have received support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to develop a new standard for “an open, competitive bidding system”. A bidding document to this effect has been approved by the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board, following which a pre-bid meeting with all potential bidders was held on December 16, 2015. However, the $700 million which was allocated the following January appeared to have been given to selected suppliers, who did not deliver and who the Minister refuses to identify.

Both Lawrence and her predecessor, Dr George Norton, had admitted that the shortage of drugs across the country was as a result of the changes implemented by Government to the drug procurement system.

“Some of these pharmaceuticals were overdue by as much as six months, which exacerbated the drug shortage at the hospital. These are the same suppliers who, before May 2015, were given the opportunity under the Granger Administration to become suppliers of pharmaceuticals to the public healthcare sector,” she said.

But the prequalification system which was scrapped by this Government had guaranteed that reputable contractors were supplying the nation’s health sector with the requisite quantity and quality of drugs. When the prequalification system was in place, the health sector was not prone to constant shortages of drugs, which put the lives of patients at risk. (Guyana Times)

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