System to dispose of expired drugs archaic says Health Minister following complaints

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Public Health Minister, Volda Lawrence on Friday, following a press conference, acknowledged that the system to dispose of expired drugs is one that is archaic and plagued by staffing issues.

Minister of Public Health Volda Lawrence

At last week’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) meeting, when questioned as to why over $5.4M in expired drugs dating back to 2016 have not been disposed of, Regional Health Officer for Region 3, Ravendra Dudhnath, indicated that they are still awaiting the intervention of the Government Analyst Food and Drugs Department.

Today, Lawrence, who also sits on the PAC, told reporters that she would have made contact with the Food and Drugs Department to make officers available to ensure the drugs are disposed of.

Probed as to why it has taken such a lengthy period to have the drugs disposed, the Minister asserted that the system is plagued by staffing issues.

According to her, the issue of expired drugs is one that has been in existence for a number of years under successive governments and added that the system to dispose of those drugs is one that needs modernizing.

“We do not have a system which allows for the ready distribution. Most of the systems that we have are very archaic. The offices do not have the responsibility to dispose on their own so they depend on other entities, whether it’s the Auditor General, whether it’s the Food and Drugs who will come and say how you dispose of these particular items that you have. So, it cuts across and they all have the challenges,” she told reporters.

Additionally, Lawrence said they are taking steps to have issues addressed adding that it will take some time before the changes become visible.

“It’s a work in progress. It’s not something that can happen tomorrow. It’s a work in progress. We have to change the ways in which our regulations are written. We have to ensure that we have more people at the various entities so that they can be dispatched regularly to the various institutions to assist them with disposal,” she explained.

According to the Auditor General’s Report of 2016, 213 items of expired drugs with an approximate value of $5.4M were noted at West Demerara Regional Hospital and seven health centres within the region.

In addition, it was also revealed that the drugs are still being stored at the bond, which is also used to store current medical supplies.

However, Dudhnath told the PAC that there is no chance that the expired drugs could be dispensed to patients since they are stored separately in the bond.

The PAC also heard that the region officially requested the removal and destruction of the expired drugs since August 2017. (Lakhram Bhagirat)

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