Pharmacy puts case
WHEN Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Health, Irene Sandford-Garner, launches her probe into the unavailability of the cancer-fighting drug Paclitaxel at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) this week, one pointed question will be:
What happened to the eight months’ supply of Paclitaxel reportedly bought from Collins Limited only last month?
In an advertisement published in today’s WEEKEND?NATION, Collins claims that it had in hand, from April 1, the supply of 30mg Paclitaxel injections, all of which the QEH purchased four days later. Collins said the supply was originally got on the pharmacy’s own initiative, based on the previous year’s orders from the hospital.
“We opened the year [April 1, 2011 to March 31, 2012] with the equivalent of eight months’ stock on hand. On April 5, which was five days into the contract, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital purchased all eight months’ stock at one time.”
Collins said that immediately after the QEH’s purchase, it placed an urgent order to its regular manufacturer.
“At the end of April,” the distributor said, “the Barbados Drug Service enquired from us if there was a possibility that we could get supplies from an alternative manufacturer since our new order had not yet arrived, and the manufacturer . . . from whom we had ordered could not supply urgently.
“We advised them we could do so, but the price from our other source was higher, and we gave them the price. They said the price was too high and therefore we should not order this.”
Collins said it also telephoned the QEH Dispensary, notifying it about the alternative manufacturer and the price.
“We were again advised not to get any at that high price.”
Responding to hospital CEO Dexter James’ statement yesterday that local distributors Collins, Biokal and Lasco needed to offer a public explanation, Collins said it took its responsibility to supply seriously.
“We go to great lengths to try and get and keep supplies on the market, often at high cost and at losses to ourselves.”
Collins said the public would “ultimately make their own judgement of the facts”.
Parliamentary Secretary Sandiford-Garner told the WEEKEND NATION yesterday that a full investigation would be launched into the matter.
“I have asked for a full report. It is disturbing and disconcerting because people’s lives are at stake. The CEO has done his preliminary enquiries and what we have to look at is to have all the parties involved – the Barbados Drug Service, the suppliers and the hospital – to see how we can prevent something like this from recurring.
I deem what has occurred unacceptable by any standards.”
Sandiford-Garner became aware of the crisis when the DAILY NATION informed her last Tuesday of complaints from a breast cancer patient who had been unable to receive her chemotherapy because the hospital did not have the drug.
The required Paclitaxel was said to have been unavailable for two weeks.
The Parliamentary Secretary admitted that after making telephone calls to the Barbados Drug Service and the QEH, the critical drug was sourced from Pharmacy Sales, a company that did not have a contract with the Government. (MB/RDG)