Drug shortages likely at polyclinics, says pharmacist
President of the Barbados Pharmaceutical Society (BPS), Derek Catlyn is of the view that public health care facilities that dispense medication will encounter drug supply shortages when the tax measures announced in last month’s budget come into effect.
The budgetary proposals announced by the Minister of Finance, Chris Sinckler, on May 30 include an eight percent increase in the National Social Responsibility Levy (NSRL) up to ten percent, a two percent commission on foreign exchange transactions and an increase in excise tax on fuel.
Catlyn said it he expects that as the cost of living and, by extension, drug prices increase, more people will be rushing to fill prescriptions from private doctors at polyclinics as opposed to using private pharmacies which will eventually lead to supply issues.
He said such was the case when Government implemented the Special Benefits Schemes for medications geared toward the treatment of hypertension diabetes, asthma, epilepsy and glaucoma-related conditions back in 2011. Under this scheme, persons received certain medications free and were only required to pay a dispensing fee which ranged between $3 and $17 if they chose to use a private pharmacy.
He said this often leaves private pharmacies to fill in the gaps.
“I feel more persons will be going to the polyclinic if these [price] increases occur. The government has made some decreases on the healthcare budget already and you will get some supply issues.
"Patients would go there [polyclinic] and if they can’t get the medication they would come to the private pharmacies with a label or say they weren’t able to get the medication and we will oblige them because if you have someone suffering from high blood pressure they need to get their medication to manage it.”
Catlyn said, in light of this, he believes more should be done to ease the burden on public pharmacies.
“I don’t think that someone who can afford medication should be going to the polyclinic and going and getting it free. Insurance companies need to be on stream with this because there are persons who could afford medication and who have insurance so let those persons claim whatever medication they purchase and get reimbursed.”
He urged Government to put measures in place to shield pensioners who are likely to be negatively affected by the increase in prices.
“Looking to pay bills, run a household and still get access to healthcare, I think that will be a major problem. I think that some sort of exemption should be made for them. Imagine you work all these years, pay taxes and then you still have these challenges after you retire in terms of getting medication."
Catlyn added it was time for Barbadians to take charge of their health, adding they cannot continue to operate as they have been in the past.