New law to go after sale of unprescribed antibiotics, fake medicines

Last Updated on Sunday, 23 June 2024, 18:13 by Writer

Health Minister Dr Frank Anthony addressing the Guyana Pharmacists Association’s 21st Annual Convention on Sunday, 23rd June, 2o24.

Health Minister Dr Frank Anthony on Sunday warned that pharmacies that sell antibiotics without prescriptions would soon be shut down, as Guyana joins the rest of the world in reducing the resistance to antibiotics and other types of prescription drugs.

He said the Health Ministry has received reports that a number of pharmacies have been treating patients by selling them antibiotics without prescriptions, in clear violation of existing legislation. “That is against the current laws that we have and, for those of you who have been violating the laws, I would urge you to rethink what you’re doing because, as we move to put stricter supervision in place, if you don’t change this kind of behaviour, then we might have to close you down and use the full force of the law to do that,” he said. Dr Anthony said antimicrobial resistance is a major problem if, for example, antibiotics are sold to persons with viral infection. “We’ve had cases in this country so this is not an external problem. This is not something that is just happening overseas that we don’t have to worry about,” he said.
He cautioned that the indiscriminate use of antibiotics would accelerate antimicrobial resistance which, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) has claimed the lives of almost seven million persons. According to the Health Minister, a number of doctors were also guilty of contributing to antimicrobial resistance by not prescribing properly. Locally, he said Guyana had over the past few years recorded multiple drug-resistant tuberculosis, causing the Health Ministry to import other medicines.

Also the First Vice President of the 77th World Health Assembly, the Health Minister said a “big movement” against anti-microbial resistance would include a political declaration at a high-level meeting in September, 2024 and after that event, the plan is to establish an inter-governmental panel on antimicrobial resistance to garner evidence and publish a report and eventually change attitudes.

Dr Anthony also announced at closure of local observance of the 2024 Commonwealth Pharmacy Week that a new medicine regulations law would target fake medicines. “We also want to take a firmer stand on falsification of medications because we do have, and it’s a global problem, where medicines are being counterfeited and so one of the challenges if you have counterfeit medication in the system, it can create problems in management of patients,” said Dr Anthony, a medical doctor by profession.

When the new legislation comes into force, it would require patients and importers to report adverse effects of drugs to the Ministry of Health as part of measures to constantly measure their efficacy. “While the Ministry would have a system in place, we’ll need people to report to this system but also the importers of these medications would have to do their own monitoring, as is done in other jurisdictions,” he said.

He explained that often products are imported and used in Guyana but no checks are done to ascertain whether there are adverse reactions because, in some settings, clinical trials are done in similar settings and so do not cater for diverse populations. “That is why after these things would have been formally approved in different jurisdictions that we must continue to monitor to ensure that if there are side effects of adverse reactions that weren’t detected during the clinical trial phases that, by using it in the population, we might be able to find some of these things but that calls for a lot of vigilance,” he said.

The Health Minister said new treatment guidelines must be implemented to, among other things, ensure that old medications are no longer used. Those guidelines, he said, should also be a guide to importers.

With assistance from the Pan-American Health Organisation (PAHO), Dr Anthony said the new law would reclassify the Food and Drug Administration to Level 3 and so the country would have to meet 169 indicators.

The Guyana Pharmacy Association’s (GPA) 21st Annual Convention includes continuing education sessions with credits.