The state-run Barbados Drug Service (BDS) has launched an investigation into complaints by patients that they were bring asked to pay for certain prescription drugs contrary to an arrangement by the BDS.
Director Maryam Hinds told Barbados TODAY this afternoon that even though a new drug formulary came into effect on April 1, doctors still had until September to continue prescribing medication which had been removed from the formulary.
“For example, the hypertensive drug, that drug is no longer on the formulary. We are giving the doctors up to six months [from April 1] in which to continue your treatment until they find what is suitable,” she said.
“I am dealing with some cases now where patients are going to [name omitted] pharmacies, and prescription drugs they are supposed to have gotten [free] . . . they are being asked to pay for it,” Hinds said, adding that charges would only be applicable if that particular generic product had been removed from the market altogether.
She noted that in most cases, the brand had changed, but the pharmacies “are making it look as if . . . it has been removed completely”.
The Drug Service director said if patients did not want the available brand and desired a different brand, they would have to pay.
“As you would appreciate, this is the beginning of the contract [new formulary], so there may be some teething problems here and there, but we are looking to address them as soon as possible with our private pharmacies . . . because most of them would happen in the private pharmacies more than with Government pharmacies,” she stressed.
Hinds said there was no need for people to panic about the changes to the formulary in that adjustments had been made in cases where major alterations occurred.
Responding to reports that some drugs had gone up in price, the BDS head said while this may be so, the converse was also true.
“There may be some drugs that the price will go up, that is true, but [for] a lot of them the price will go down. But you won’t hear that one, you would hear the one that went up,” she contended.
Meantime, Eric Catlyn, the president of the Barbados Pharmaceutical Society (BPS), told Barbados TODAY he would be surprised if pharmacies were requiring payment for drugs for which people ought not be charged.
Stating that he was not aware of any such situation, Catlyn added: “You normally follow the rules and regulations according to the Barbados Drug Service and at the end of the day, you should be ethical and professional when you are dealing with the patient. I would be very surprised if they got pharmacies out there jucking out the patients’ eyes, you know what I mean? Overcharging the patient.”
He also sought to clarify the pricing issue and how the formulary works when branded drugs are replaced by generic ones.
“Normally we get a one-month transition period from the old formulary to the new formulary. From my observation, looking at the formulary now, I could see that there is a further increase in the number of generic drugs on the formulary. Off the top of my head, I would say it is pushing 90 per cent,” Catlyn said.
The pharmacist said based on correspondence from the BDS, the pharmacies would refill all prescriptions filled to the end of March this year.
“The popular drugs that were on before it in terms of the last contract . . . all of those would be honoured. Any individual presenting themselves now, the patient coming to the private pharmacy with a prescription from April 1, these specific drugs are no longer on the formulary. So they have to pay full price for these productions,” he explained.
“It is not that the price of the medication has increased, it is that there is an increase in the number of generics actually on the formulary. Popular drugs like for example, anti-diabetic medication like Diamicron, that is no longer on the formulary. These popular branded drugs are no longer on. So I expected a backlash from the public with this change,” Catlyn added.
He emphasized that while the generic and branded drugs were equally effective, it was down to the perception of patients. However, he pointed out that across the globe, generics out-numbered the branded drugs on formularies, albeit that the generic medication was cheaper.