Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Health, Senator Irene Sandiford-Garner (FP)

This island’s pharmaceutical future will be the issue at hand today, as representatives from various entities gather for day one of a workshop to discuss the Draft Barbados National Pharmaceutical Policy, at the Pan American Health Organisation’s (PAHO) headquarters at Dayrell’s Road, St. Michael.

Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Health, Senator Irene Sandiford-Garner, who delivered the feature address at the opening of the two-day event, expressed her appreciation to PAHO for assisting in the endeavour and explained the rationale behind the reformed strategy for the Barbados Drug Service.

"Expenditure on pharmaceuticals has been growing steadily over the past few decades; and Barbados, like its regional counterparts, is finding the financing of pharmaceutical products increasingly difficult … the Barbados Drug Service established its Special Benefits Service (SBS) in 1981, to provide formulary drugs to beneficiaries…at that time the patient was required to pay a part of the cost if they received their medication in the private sector.??

"This system of co-payment was removed in 1986…since [then], expenditure on the SBS has risen steadily from $62,425… to BDS$ 54.3 million, in the 2010-2011 financial year.?? It is clear that the expenditure of the Barbados Drug Service has risen to the extent that it has become unsustainable and must be rationalised, to ensure that equity and quality are maintained, while instituting cost efficiencies in the delivery of that same service," Dr. Sandiford-Garner stressed.

The Parliamentary Secretary re-emphasised that while the imminent changes would lead to greater efficiencies in the Barbados Drug Service and government, this would not translate into reduced quality and satisfaction for clients.

"The introduction of the dispensing fee, effective April 1, 2011, represents an attempt to rationalise the Barbados Drug Service expenditure.?? This new system affects patients accessing services in the private sector only, and will see the Barbados Drug Service continue to pay for the cost of the drugs, but patients will pay the dispensing fee charged by the pharmacy.?? That fee used to be paid by the Barbados Government, as part of the package to pharmacists participating in the Special Benefits Service.?? It must be noted that patients filling their prescriptions in the public sector will not be required to pay the dispensing fee," she explained, adding that it has been projected that government will incur savings of about BDS$12 million annually.??

Cheryl Ann Yearwood of the Barbados Drug Service was a member of the Working Group commissioned to update the policy and she explained that there would now be a ???team approach’ taken towards patient care?? – the pharmacist, doctor and patient would share information, including the function of medication given, goals to be achieved through its application and the response observed. She added that the process would place emphasis on quality assurance and promised that both branded and generic pharmaceuticals would continue to be dispensed.

Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Joy St. John, reiterated that care would not be compromised, but rather, the changes were being made to ensure that it was available for all. She charged those gathered for the workshop to take a holistic approach to their review of the draft policy.

"The philosophy continues to be that in order for every citizen to have access to health care, government has to focus on ensuring that the most vulnerable can enjoy a standard and quality of basic health care that the most privileged in the society can afford… [we must ensure that] no Barbadian citizen is excluded from care by virtue of their poverty. Bear this concept in mind as you work, so that we [have] the best policy document for Barbados now and in the future," Dr. St John underlined.

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