Pharmacists in Barbados have welcomed proposed legislative amendments that would outlaw unregulated warehousing of medicines and prosecute unregistered drug retailers.
Past President of the Barbados Pharmaceutical Society, Paul Gibson, who was part of a team that gave input in changes to the Pharmacy Act announced yesterday by Minister of Health Lt Col Jeffrey Bostic at a Barbados Drug Service inspectors training workshop, said the improvements augur well for both pharmacists and patients.
“The warehousing laws are also going to be changed because of a couple incidents where persons just thought that they could bring in products and start to sell in Barbados, not realizing that they needed the authorization of the Barbados Pharmacy Council in order to begin to practice,” Gibson told Barbados TODAY.
“A pharmacist must be present if you are going to be selling pharmaceutical agents in any warehouse. Therefore, because pharmacists come under the regulation of the Pharmacy Council, it is only natural for those persons to apply and be given authorization by the Council to practise in that space. Therefore, an amendment was necessary to the Act to ensure we don’t have any more bungles or mix ups with persons just thinking they could come in and sell,” he added.
Gibson said in the same way a pharmacist needs certification to practise, certification is also required to open a warehouse in Barbados.
In response to a question about alternative medical practices, he said these operations are not registered pharmacies.
“They are definitely not [registered]…. We as pharmacists are taught to make our pharmacognosy, which is the study of plants and so on; that is part of our training. We are cognisant that persons are not only using ethical pharmaceuticals, but are also inculcating traditional medicines into their day-to-day practice,” the prominent pharmacist said.
“They may use something for hypertension, but they may also use a supplement to complement what they are taking and those two can actually have an interaction. So, we have to have certain knowledge as to the impact of that product on the ethical pharmaceuticals. So, we are taught both the ethical and traditional,” he stressed.
Gibson also expressed the organisation’s concern about stores that sell vitamins, and the messaging that is conveyed to the public through promotions and advertisements.
“They promote this kind of panacea-type philosophy where if you take this you would be healed forever. There is a particular business that advertises every day on the radio and when you hear them talk about their products you would think they can heal the whole world,” he declared.
Gibson categorically rejected such healing claims, and has instead advised that patients seek verification from a medical doctor and also consult with a pharmacist if they are taking supplements from vitamin stores and other practitioners of alternative medicine.
“So, not only are you taking your prescribed medication from your doctor, but bring your supplements and bring your bushes and whatever to the pharmacy so we can have a conversation, so we can let you know how it works,” he advised.
“Something as simple as zinc. You don’t take your zinc tables with orange juice because it would not be absorbed adequately. You don’t take your cholesterol agents with grapefruit because it causes bad dreams. We know this clinically. So, there is a practicality to the recommendations about coming to your pharmacist when you are having your supplements and your ethical pharmaceuticals.”
Gibson therefore contended that there is a need for greater regulation of vitamin stores.
“One of the other concerns that we have is that we need, as Barbadians and as pharmacists, to be able to guarantee that what is being offered to Barbadians meets international standards when it comes to vitamins and supplements, because all vitamins and supplements are not created equally,” he cautioned.
Gibson noted that the amendments to the law will address some of these issues, including putting some products back into pharmacies.
The pending legislation will also make continuing education (CE) for pharmacists mandatory.
“In any profession, there is always a growing and expanding body of knowledge and if you are not doing continuing education you would end up being left behind the eight ball. This was on the cards for about four to five years. When I was president it came up as well, and we decided we were going to legislate it and make compulsory CE,” Gibson said.
He explained that CE would allow practitioners to be constantly updated and refreshed concerning the latest developments and changes in the pharmaceutical field, therefore providing a more efficient and effective service and medicinal supply to patients.
“[Pharmacists would provide] new technologies, new strategies for patient care, new modalities of treating diseases, and community pharmacies and hospital pharmacies would give a wider scope and be kept up to par with pharmacy as a whole and as a profession,” Gibson stated.
President of the Pharmaceutical Society, Marina Thompson echoed the sentiments of her colleague with respect to the messaging coming from some alternative medicine businesses, the need for continuing education, and unregulated complementary medicinal operations.
“We would welcome legislation…. We are out-of-date with current practices…things that we have been fighting for…. Obviously, we will always be looking to update our practice and control current practices that are not desirable,” she told Barbados TODAY.
Thompson went on to identify some of those undesirable practices.
“The Pharmaceutical Society is concerned about the advertisements that we would see popping up or the claims to be the answer to your medical problems. There are lots of things that are unregulated because in the traditional industry is a highly unregulated industry,” she said.
“When you have an unregulated industry, anything can go and you must be sure that what you say you are getting, you are getting. So, we want to make sure when things come into the country you actually know what is coming in; that they are standardized and that they are manufactured using good manufacturing practices,” Thompson insisted.