The government intends to crack down on pharmacies that have “a disproportionate business” in control substance prescriptions, Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands said.
The United Nations World Drug Report 2019, which was released last month, said synthetic opioids pose a “serious threat to health” globally, noting that overdose deaths have risen in North America and the trafficking of fentanyl has expanded worldwide.
Sands said The Bahamas has not seen a problem with opioids that’s “anywhere near as serious” as what’s occurring in the United States.
However, he told The Nassau Guardian, “Our problem has been the availability of opioids for cancer care, for pain relief, et cetera, typically when we move toward the end of the clinical year. Whether that is due to visitors accessing our consignment of opioids when they come to visit, or whether there’s misappropriation or inappropriate prescribing patterns.”
Sands added, “Imagine that I come off a cruise ship, I go to a pharmacy to have a prescription filled. Now, that prescription may be co-signed or rewritten by a Bahamian clinician but a dose of Oxycontin or some other drug, which would otherwise be used for the clinical use for Bahamians, now goes into the hands of a non-Bahamian.
“If that happens once or twice, it’s not a big deal. If it happens 100 times or 1,000 times or 10,000 times, we more quickly use up our supply which is not determined by us but it’s determined by international regulatory agencies. So, the complaint of Bahamians in hospital will be that there is no morphine, there’s no Percocet, there’s no this, there’s no that.”
Asked if the government intends to crackdown on prescriptions for sale, the minister said, “That’s a simple way to put it. I believe what we want to do is protect the availability of appropriate prescriptions for Bahamian patients and or visitors also that have a need for medication when they come to the country. It’s a very challenging thing if you’ve had surgery, if you’re suffering from cancer, to not be able to get your pain controlled because there’s none in the pharmacy.”
The Bahamas has grappled with the issue of limited availability of opioids for more than 15 years, according to the minister.
“We have been considering introducing triplicate control substance prescriptions so we can track more effectively and more accurately the prescribing patterns and dispensing patterns of pharmacies and prescriptions,” Sands said.
“It is not a quick fix.”
According the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 400,000 Americans died from an overdose involving an opioid between 1999 and 2017.
In 2017, Sands said The Bahamas’ pharmaceutical industry was complicit in the opioid crisis in the United States, according to The Tribune.
When asked yesterday if his views are the same two years later, Sands said, “I stand by my comments.”
Education: Goldsmith, University of London, MA in Race, Media and Social Justice
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