Ministry of Health vs. Pharmacists

By Benjamin Flowers
Staff Reporter

Local pharmacists and the Ministry of Health are at odds this week over new import regulations for pharmaceuticals, leaving stakeholders concerned about the quality of drugs which will now be available to the public.

Minister of Health Pablo Marin assures that new regulations will bring high quality medications

Minister of Health Pablo Marin assures that new regulations will bring high quality medications

At the start of November the MOH implemented an amendment to the Food and Drug Regulations for 2017 which requires importers of pharmaceuticals to have a Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) certificate.

The Belize Community Pharmacist Association (BCPA) argued that the new certification requirement would impact the availability and quality of medications available in county, which would ultimately impact the public which relies on those medications.

“We are gravely concerned that in recent times, pedigree medications which have traditionally been imported from places such as the US, UK, Germany and other first world countries are now being replaced with alternative pharmaceuticals from manufacturers in places such as Central America, which may cost more and not work as well,” the BCPA said.

The Association also noted that the Ministry made those changes without meaningful consultation with the country’s pharmacists. Wayne Vernon, BCPA president, told the media this week that there are around 50 medications that will be affected, including daily blood pressure medications.

Minister of Health Pablo Marin rebutted the Association’s claims, noting that carriers with GMP certificates are World Health Organization approved, making the pharmaceuticals coming into Belize of the highest possible standard. He also noted that there are only a limited amount of suppliers who do not carry the certification.
“The only ones that don’t have the GMP are the USA and Canada. The UK and them, they have the GMP. We already have products being registered from the UK already,” Marin said.

He went on to explain that if the pharmacists stop importing certain drugs it will be because they don’t want to pay for products from their usual source countries, which carry the GMP certificates, and not necessarily because of the regulations themselves.
The BCPA has decided to withhold any further comments until it has an official meeting with the minister over the issue.

In August the Facebook page “NBZLive” had accused Marin and his wife, Danini Marin nee Contreras (Director of the Drug Inspectorate), of owning a pharmaceutical company, and directing purchases from the Ministry to that company. The Ministry of Health issued a statement flatly denying the allegations.

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