The Barbados Drug Service, established in 1980 to provide residents of Barbados with quality pharmaceuticals, is currently undergoing a restructuring exercise, with a view towards improving efficiency and management of its budget.
Today, there are 76 private participating pharmacies in the Special Benefits Service (SBS), of which more than 50% are small pharmacies. This ensures that patients who access health care in either the public or private sectors receive the same quality pharmaceuticals. These pharmacies are widely distributed across the island.
Since 1981, expenditure on the SBS has risen steadily from $62,425 in that year, (including co-payments or a percentage of the cost which was paid by the patient) to more than Bds$31.5 million in 2005/2006.
The Ministry of Health is conscious of the rising costs of drugs on the world market and increasing demands from Barbadians for additional drugs to be placed on the Formulary. Wherever possible, generic drugs are used, as opposed to more expensive patented ones, as a cost containment measure. Where patented drugs are used, as soon as those patents have expired contracts are issued to companies for suitable generics. It must be noted however, that the generic price is not always lower than that of brand name drugs.
In keeping with the objectives of the restructuring exercise to improve the operational efficiency of the BDS, future contracts for pharmacies which operate under the Special Benefits Service will only be issued in certain cases, guided by selection criteria. None-the-less, duty free and zero rated provisions for drugs have been extended to all private pharmacies, regardless of their participation in the SBS programme, contrary to the situation prior to the restructuring process.
A contract to operate under the SBS service makes provision for that pharmacy to dispense pharmaceutical products and related items in the Barbados National Drug Formulary, free of cost to persons 65 years of age and over, children 16 years of age and under, as well as persons receiving prescribed Formulary drugs for treatment of hypertension, diabetes, cancer, epilepsy and asthma. Participating pharmacies are reimbursed by the Barbados Drug service.
The Barbados Drug Service has no mandate to issue contracts to all private pharmacies to participate in the SBS programme, nor does it register pharmacies. Licences for pharmacies to operate are issued by the Pharmacy Council, a body appointed by the Minister of Health to regulate pharmacies and pharmacists.
The Ministry of Health wants to ensure that pharmaceuticals are accessible to all Barbadians irrespective of their pharmacy of preference and is committed to private sector participation in the SBS programme.