By Sheria Brathwaite
Barbados is one step closer to establishing its very own pharmaceutical industry.
In partnership with Guyana and Rwanda, the government has created a regulatory
framework that would be needed to set up the sector.
During a presentation ceremony on Monday at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre, Prime Minister Mia Mottley announced that the development of this industry would ensure the island, its Caribbean Community (CARICOM) partners and other states considered to be a part of the Global South, would have adequate access to medicine, especially if another disease spreads worldwide.
Stressing that “there ought to be no repetition of what transpired between 2020 and 2022”, which was the heightened period of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in Barbados, she said: “We, for too long, have seen the citizens of the Global South be on the periphery of access to appropriate medical therapeutics, medical diagnostics to systems [and] to equipment.
“We know what it was to have put in orders and paid and then to be told that the equipment and the ventilators would no longer be delivered because there were export prohibitions under the laws of other countries . . . . We know what it is to have been told that you are simply too well off to be able to benefit from concessional prices, irrespective of the fact that your people were contracting and dying from that dreaded pandemic. We know what it is for people simply to say ‘you’re just too small and your order, accordingly, is too small and while we want to help we can’t guarantee it because you do not command market attention to be seen, to be heard and to be felt’ in spite of the fact that our money was right there waiting to be delivered.”
The prime minister said these challenges “inspired” her administration to pursue a pharmaceutical sector and, subsequently, meetings were held with officials in Guyana and Rwanda to materialise this goal.
Minister of Health Senator Dr The Most Honourable Jerome Walcott explained that out of those meetings two years ago, the biopharma project was created.
“In those early discussions, it was recognised that if Barbados and Guyana were to get involved in the manufacturing of pharmaceuticals to meet the needs of the populations of the two regions, we would have to be compliant with the requirements of the international organisations that have responsibility for overseeing the food and drug regulatory authorities across the globe. The need for a document commonly referred to as a White Book was identified. This White Book presents for each country a gap analysis of what must be done to create the enabling environment for regulation in the pharmaceutical industry,” he said.
Thanking all who had a role to play in the creation of the White Book, Mottley added that the sector would create many job opportunities for Barbadians, especially university graduates.
“But we are also creating a platform for the economic diversification of this country, which is absolutely essential and which is aligned with our investment in our people at the primary, secondary and tertiary levels.
And, therefore, we are simply creating opportunities for them. When we discovered, upon coming into office, that there were about 6 000 people who had qualified and had come out of the University of the West Indies with science-based degrees, we knew then that we could no longer continue to believe that these people would either simply be teachers or would have to go overseas in order to be able to use their skills that they learned in university,” she said.
Mottley added that the government would also have to develop the legal framework to support this venture, noting that about 30 pieces of legislation would have to be drafted. She also said that a Barbados Regulatory Authority would be established and it would be an autonomous entity, adding that it
would meet the requirements of international standards.