Barbadians who rely on several types of medication for a wide variety of ailments including asthma, hypertension, diabetes, epilepsy and glaucoma, are to be weaned off of certain products over the next two months, as the island transitions to a new National Drug Formulary.
Word of this today from Senior Medical Officer of Health Dr Anton Best following agreement reached between local health authorities and stakeholders in the pharmaceutical industry on how the new system would be implemented.
“Effective Monday, April 23, 2018, products affected by the changes to the formulary will continue to be available to the patient under the Barbados Drug Service’s (BDS) Benefit Service until June 30, 2018 with the exception of the
dispensing fee which is paid for drugs accessed in the private sector,” Best told reporters at the end of closed-door talks this afternoon at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre, adding that private pharmacies would be reimbursed for all items dispensed.
The senior medical officer also assured that both new prescriptions and valid refills would be honoured during the two-month grace period, which provides an opportunity for doctors to transition patients to the new medications.
However, “patients are advised that they will not receive these items under the Barbados Drug Service’s Benefit Service after June 30, 2018,” Best stressed.
He also revealed that today’s meeting discussed the establishment of a mechanism to improve communication between the Ministry of Health, the BDS and key stakeholders in the pharmaceutical sector, with a number of proposals currently before the ministry.
BDS Assistant Director Delores Mascoll, who also spoke at the press briefing, sought to address concerns by some members of the public over the removal of popular drugs from the formulary.
“Drugs were removed from various categories of the formulary. We have what we call the benefit categories, which include asthma, hypertension, diabetes, epilepsy, glaucoma. So some of the older products, or what we call the legacy products, were removed from these categories . . . because there are newer and better products [with fewer side effects],” Mascoll explained.
“So these were taken off to give the opportunity to use the better products available. With respect to hypertension . . . [there are] drugs where studies have shown that they are not as effective as some of the other products we have. And . . . we have newer and better products that cause less side effects and are more effective in the treatment of hypertension,” she stressed.
The BDS official was also at pains to point out that some of the diabetes medications that were removed from the formulary had higher side effects than those replacing them.
“So, across-the-board, things that were not deemed to be as effective were removed. The list is quite extensive so it’s not something I would be able to go through with you in detail, but those are examples,” Mascoll said.
Member of the Drug Formulary Committee and Chairman of the Patient Care Advisory Committee of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) Shelly Weir was happy with the new formulary, suggesting there was nothing right now to challenge the quality of the pharmaceuticals on the list.
“The level of comfort for patients to my mind is of utmost importance, and I want patients to be comfortable that the best choices are being made for them in terms of the type of drugs they get, in terms of availability of drugs.
“One of the issues within this meeting today was that the word ‘generics’ would make me uncomfortable as well . . . but I am also hearing that qualified as quality generics,” Weir said.
She is at the same time suggesting that the BDS ensures regular testing of drugs.
“I am satisfied that a system is already in place and that system will be strengthened to ensure that patients will get the best drugs available. The other side to this for me though is that patients also have to take responsibility. There is no one-size fits all. So the drug that works for me might not work for the other person,” the QEH spokeswoman said, adding that patients also had a responsibility to report any adverse effects.
“But overall I am satisfied that the process is effective and that it is working,” she said.
President of the Barbados Pharmaceutical Society Derek Catlyn was also upbeat following today’s talks, stating that “everything” was clarified.
“Today was very fruitful and informative. I think there was a lot of miscommunication between the relevant stakeholders. Today everything was clarified and I just want to allay the fears of the Barbadian public . . . patient care is paramount and the Ministry of Health does a good job when it comes to patient care in Barbados in terms of improving patient outcome and improving the delivery of health care overall,” Catlyn emphasized.