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Drug shortages

by Anesta Henry
3 min read

Pharmacists report challenges getting a range of medication into island

By Anesta Henry

The umbrella body for pharmacists in Barbados is reporting and inconsistent supply and, in some cases, shortages in prescription drugs.

According to president of the Barbados Pharmaceutical Society (BPS) Yolan Pantin, pharmacists are helping each other by sharing supplies and also seeking the assistance of distributors so that patients can get needed medication.

Among the drugs she said pharmacists are searching for is Zoloft, which is prescribed for the treatment of anxiety and psychiatry issues.

“There are a lot of things that are out of stock,” said Pantin who also told Barbados TODAY that while logistical problems in the shipping industry have contributed significantly to the shortage of medications, the long delays at the Panama Canal, due to drought conditions, could further compound the issue.

“This is an ongoing issue depending on the supplier, so sometimes you have stock and then when you reorder, they may not have any stock available for sale. So some suppliers are getting back stock slowly, and then sometimes they are not getting their usual quantities, and I think that is where the issue lies.”

“Maybe if they were supposed to get 10 000 units, they might not have gotten them, so by the time we all place orders, when it has come back into stock it goes very quickly and then it takes a while to get back depending on where they are actually ordering their stock from. And it seems to be a worldwide issue, too,” she added.

The BPS president pointed out that the majority of medications used in the Caribbean are not manufactured in the region.

As a result, she said, pharmacists had to depend on getting stock further afield.

“And if there are issues such as right now with shipping, then those logistics are going to be where we have issues, when we are awaiting stock or hoping that stock can arrive.

“A couple of suppliers that I have spoken to would have been given dates of when stock would arrive, and when you call expecting that the stuff is here, they still haven’t received their stuff as yet,” said Pantin.

She added that while ordering in large quantities when stock is available is one way to address the shortages, that approach is not feasible for all pharmacy operations.

“It also depends on the financial status of the business,” the BPS head said.

“Some people can afford to order more stock because, obviously, they have more liquid capital than other pharmacies, so that is where you will find that they can maybe order larger quantities that would carry them.

But then you have the smaller pharmacies that are not able to do so.

“It is going to give us a lot of issues down the road if we can’t fix this entire world situation,” Pantin contended.

She disclosed that with the absence of branded drugs, some pharmacists have been opting to order generic versions if customers were willing to go that route.

Pantin added that smaller distributors have also been trying to help pharmacists fill the gap through sourcing prescription drugs from overseas suppliers.

However, she pointed out, “those drugs are not on the [Barbados Drug Service] formulary so those are the ones that the patients would have to pay for”.

The BPS head said pharmacists were also trying to share supplies.

“If somebody has enough that we can purchase from one another, that is what we have been doing at the moment. We would ask in our group chat who has or if we can direct patients. That is how we make sure that our patients are able to get the medications that they need. If the original pharmacy does not have it, we try to source it from another pharmacy that may have access to stock or may even have stock that they can sell us for that one patient,” she said.


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