Chief Medical Officer Dr Kenneth George believes any misunderstanding over recently announced changes to the Barbados National Drug Formulary will likely be cleared up by the end of the week.
Speaking to Barbados TODAY on the sidelines of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) workshop at Accra Beach Hotel on Wednesday morning, Dr George said the Ministry of Health would be meeting with major stakeholders to address any issues that might arise as a result of the changes.
“I am confident that any issues would be ironed out when the Ministry of Health meets with stakeholders tomorrow. Among those attending would be Barbados Association of Medical Practitioners, the Barbados pharmacy owners and other interested parties. After that meeting we would issue a press statement regarding any decisions taken,” he said.
The Barbados Drug Service (BDS) announced last month that effective April 1, there will be changes to the formulary, which will involve the deletion of some drugs and the addition of others. Persons who benefit from free drugs under the formulary were advised to check with their medical practitioners to find out if the medications they are currently taking will be affected by these changes.
The development has caused angst among some patients, whose desired brand of drugs were taken off the list and replaced by generic drugs. In addition hypertensive drugs have been struck from the formulary and though the BDS advised that current prescriptions could be repeated until the end of September, provided that the prescription was initially filled before the end of March, there were complaints by patients that some pharmacies had begun charging for these drugs.
The public outcry came as no surprise to Eric Catlyn, the president of the Barbados Pharmaceutical Society (BPS), who explained that “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”, including popular drugs such as the anti-diabetic medication, 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 said, even though he emphasized that the cheaper generic drugs were equally as effective as branded ones.
This morning the Chief Medical Officer defended the changes, making it clear that the process was transparent and that contrary to what some may think, there was no sinister plot to remove brand named drugs from the formulary.
“If it is believed that the only function of the formulary is remove brand named drugs off and put generic drugs on, that is incorrect. Experts in the field facilitated the process. Everyone is running away with issue of the medications that have come off of the formulary but no one is paying attention to the fact that drugs were put onto the formulary,” said George, who pointed out that given the regular changes in medicine, it would be unreasonable for people to expect the formulary to remain static for long periods.
“The formulary must be seen as a dynamic document because medicine moves too quickly and too fast for the formulary to remain for five or more years. What we did was a consultative process where we went a step forward and brought in experts in the areas in eight disciplines. Among these were: hypertension, diabetes, antimicrobials and pain medicine. Those leaders in those fields met and determined what drugs should be in the new formulary,” he stressed.
The Barbados Drug Service provides free medication to children under the age of 16, senior citizens over 65, and anyone, irrespective of age, who received prescribed formulary drugs for the treatment of diabetes, hypertension, asthma, cancer, glaucoma and epilepsy.