The island’s pharmacists’ umbrella body is setting up a watchdog unit to help shut down unlicensed prescription drug retailers whose activities pose a serious threat to the health and well-being of Barbadians.
Barbados Pharmaceutical Society (BPS) President Yolan Pantin has also warned that counterfeit Pfizer drugs circling the global market could creep onto the island.
She said the organization is particularly concerned that people who are not licensed to sell prescription drugs are now making a business of dispensing pharmaceuticals that should only be sold by pharmacies.
“We have a lot of people posting these things on Facebook, getting them in and selling them. Therein lies my concern,” she said. Barbados TODAY.
“Things that are supposed to be sold in pharmacies, like generic Viagra which is called Sildenafil, are being peddled by these people. A guy popped up on my social media page to tell me he was selling Kamagra. I I said ‘are you a licensed pharmaceutical distributor?’ He said ‘no, I’m just bringing it.’ So I informed him that it is a pharmaceutical only drug, that it can cause heart attacks and arrhythmia. ‘Wuh you sell and why?’ Obviously after that it was deleted,” Pantin recalled.
“Not only are counterfeit pharmaceuticals happening, but generics of these types of drugs are also circulating and being sold on the streets of Barbados. Pharmaceutical grade steroid creams are being sold in beauty supply stores in Barbados and we don’t have enough drug inspectors in the Barbados Drug Service (BDS) to monitor all of these places,” she added. .
In this context, the BPS official said that her organization has decided to lend a hand to the Drug Service by carrying out its own collection of evidence to submit to the state entity for action.
“So we went in and took pictures of the drugs that we know shouldn’t be sold by anyone over the counter in a beauty supply store because of how dangerous they are to a person’s skin if they are not prescribed to the patient by a dermatologist . . . and all the other things that we know are supposed to be done,” Pantin revealed.
“They sell them as bleaching creams which can actually thin and break the skin and never heal. Pharmacists generally have to go to these things to help the Barbados Drug Service and Inspection that are requested. I will buy it myself, with the receipt that has the name of the company on it and I will take it to the Barbados drug service and say this is what I just bought and from where so that inspection has proof that they can go and work with it.”
Warning that there were “people who came to the island and brought things to the island to make a quick buck and were practically going to kill people,” Pantin said, the BPS executive discussed the establishment of a surveillance system that would provide additional policing capacity, with a view to putting unlicensed operators out of business.
“The executive discussed forming a Pharmaco Vigilant network among pharmacists in Barbados and gave them direction on how they should do like what I did so we can shut it all down…. I know someone who went to a pharmacy and offered to sell him generic Viagra. Imagine that! They actually get these things and want to approach a pharmacy so that a pharmacy can buy them,” she said. Barbados TODAY.
Concern over the possibility of dangerous counterfeit drugs slipping into Barbados was sparked by a 60 Minutes special report on CBS News in which police officers carried out a surprise raid on an indoor market in Lima, Peru, and found hundreds of thousands of fake prescription drugs before led to a fake pharmaceutical factory that was producing massive amounts of antibiotics and other drugs for the treatment of non-communicable diseases.
John Clarke, who heads Pfizer’s global security team that hunts down criminals around the world, said Pfizer’s counterfeit drugs have made their way to pharmacies and hospitals in at least 46 different countries around the world , including England, Canada and the United States.
This is what has the BPS on edge.
“We must not be satisfied with this situation because it can cause a lot of problems,” warned Patin. “We need to look at companies that bring in pharmaceuticals. We have small companies bringing medicines to the island because the big companies have stopped bringing particular medicines which are still requested by doctors.
She said she was particularly concerned that the packaging and branding of the counterfeits are so identical to the genuine products that even medical and health officials could be fooled.
“The packaging is impeccable. The packaging makes you think it is the real medicine. And if we don’t do rigorous testing…if bigger organizations bring in pharmaceuticals and we don’t test, we’re going to have problems with something like that leaking out and getting into our pharmaceutical system,” said the president of the BPS.
She urged BDS to tighten its testing regime for all pharmaceuticals entering Barbados.
“As far as I know we don’t have any counterfeit drugs coming to Barbados, but things can slip in there,” she said.