OVER $1 billion worth of expired drugs purchased before August 2020, are being dumped by the Ministry of Health.
According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), expired medical products can be less effective, or risky due to a change in chemical composition, or a decrease in strength. Certain expired medications are at risk of bacterial growth, and sub-potent antibiotics can fail to treat infections, leading to more serious illnesses and antibiotic resistance.
Health Minister Dr. Frank Anthony, during the Budget 2020 debates, had said that over 1.6 million items would have expired in the first eight months of this year, with some $200 million more scheduled to expire by December.
An aggregation of the expired drugs shows that close to $1 billion was wasted on expired medicine and supplies.
Minister Anthony has said that expired drugs have cost Guyanese taxpayers millions of dollars, not only for procurement, but storage as well.
“Today, we commenced the disposal of expired drugs we had in the bond. We are doing that for two reasons: One, it has expired, so it can no longer be used for human consumption. Therefore, we had to dump it,” Dr. Anthony said.
“In addition to that, the expired drugs have been cluttering up … You would know that in the past, because the bond was cluttered, the previous Government resorted to renting bond space. So, by clearing out expired drugs, we have now been able to make more space available,” said Dr. Anthony during a recent interview with the Department of Public Information.
The Health Minister, in a past report, had said that Guyana’s health sector was perhaps the most neglected sector under the former APNU+AFC Administration.
Minister Anthony was quoted by sections of the media as saying: “The APNU+AFC Government did not buy medicines for the people with high blood pressure in this country; it meant that the APNU+AFC did not buy medicines for patients who had heart problems in this country; it meant that the APNU+AFC Government did not buy medicines for the diabetic patients; they did not buy medicines for the HIV patients. They did not buy medicines for TB patients, and no medicines for Malaria patients.”
The new Government, through the 2020 Budget, has taken a step towards ensuring Guyanese no longer have to risk their lives at the hands of a “failing system,” Dr. Anthony said.
The Government has allocated $51.7 billion, or 15.7 per cent of the total budget to the health sector for 2020. Of this amount, $14.3 billion has been budgeted for the procurement of drugs and medical supplies, and $3.2 billion will go to the procurement of emergency drugs and medical supplies, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
In recognising the need for critical medical supplies, the government, in August opened bids for qualified suppliers to provide emergency medicines and supplies.
The Ministry of Health had said it is desirous of obtaining bids from qualified suppliers to supply emergency medicines and supplies, which are readily available in the country.
Those medical supplies will not only be used in the fight against COVID-19, but to also treat other diseases and ailments, which are sometimes overlooked by the public because of the coronavirus pandemic. The areas identified for supplies were pharmaceuticals, medical supplies, radiology supplies and dental supplies.