An increasing number of Barbadians, particularly the young, are abusing over-the-counter drugs (OTCs) and President of the Barbados Pharmaceutical Society Paul Gibson warns the country must act with haste to regulate their use.
Gibson is fully backing calls made by several parliamentarians during today’s debate on the Pharmacy Amendment Bill for better control of certain products in the public arena.
“We do believe that with haste pharmaceuticals need to move from the public space into the pharmaceutical space.
“They are persons going into a gas station or a shop, picking up a bottle of something and then they go into another shop and select something else and then another shop. And so they pick these things up and nobody is aware of the abuse of certain medications. It really is a concern to the pharmacists,” Gibson told Barbados TODAY.
He revealed that the illegal practice appeared to be growing among youth who he suggested were mimicking what they saw on television in most cases.
“A lot of young people are watching certain programmes and are becoming aware of the use of these legal prescriptions, including cough syrups and are moving them into the illegal space. We are also aware that you can use pseudoephedrine to make some of these newer exotic drugs. We have a lot of young people that need a lot of help and the pharmacists can guide them and direct them or even pick up trends to make observation.”
Gibson was equally concerned that a large number of Barbadians living with non-communicable diseases could also be endangering their health even further by using some OTCs.
“We have a challenge where a lot of patients are not aware but a lot of Barbadians are diabetic, they are hypertensive, they have peripheral diseases that take over-the-counter drugs.
He insisted: “You can’t have people taking these things that would affect the body and elevate the pressure. These are things that we want the public to be aware of. We want to have the physicians and BAMP [Barbados Association of Medical Practitioners] backing us in this regard because we really believe it complicates medical care if patients are not being managed properly.”
Gibson expressed concern that while OTCs were readily available in Barbados, developed countries including the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada had already removed them from the public arena and placed them under the supervision of registered pharmacists.
He said the pharmaceutical society was continuing efforts to ensure Barbados moved in that direction, and expressed hope that today’s parliamentary debate would give the effort momentum.
“The Pharmaceutical Society has already crafted a list of products that should fit into the appropriate schedule and that the laws be amended to have these products shifted to the schedule and so they become pharmacy OTC products.”
Stressing that pharmacists were well trained to advise consumers on the proper use of drugs, Gibson suggested the move would significantly benefit patients and at the same time prevent the abuse of legal drugs.
“If you come to a pharmacy, the pharmacist may be able to say this patient has hypertension so we don’t recommend that you use that particular thing or we may realise that somebody is coming into a pharmacy three/four times a week for cough syrup for example and we know that is extraordinary. We also have the ability to look at an individual’s eyes and determine if their pupils are dilated or constricted and make an assessment as to what is happening to that patient and thereby make a decision as to what is happening to give an idea to the patient.”
During today’s session of Parliament, Opposition MP Dr Maria Agard and Commerce Minister Donville Inniss both stressed that greater attention should be paid to ready availability of OTCs, given the risk to the individuals.
Agard also claimed that some pharmacists were dispensing antibiotics in the absence of a formal diagnosis or prescription.
However, in response, Gibson said he could not confirm whether this was true, citing that the society had received no complaints.
“If it was happening then it needs to be documented and then we have an inspectorate that can adequately deal with these matters. This is what they do and if they are any infractions of any sort. We would be more than happy to investigate.”