The Belize Community Pharmacist's Association is a new group formed in May to look after the interests of those small private pharmacies who are trying to protect their interests in a changing landscape.  

The main change they faced on the first of November was the Food and Drugs Regulations 2017, which is a new regime of standards for the pharmaceutical industry.  

Now, standards are a good thing; they make sure that the pharmaceutical products you use are up to mark, and not inferior in anyway.  

But the Community Pharmacists say that if you are used to products out of the USA and the UK - you may have to find a central American Substitute.  That's because the new Ministry of Health Standards requires that all drugs be certified with a standard called, "GMP" - short for good manufacturing practices.  

But in the USA and Europe, they only give what's called a GDP certification, meaning "good distribution practices."

If it sounds like they're splitting hairs, the pharmacists say they're not; they say it has a consequential effect on the quality, brand name, and price of the drugs you receive:..

Latricia Staine Enriquez - Belize Community Pharmacist Association

"I feel it will affect the public.  I mean the regulations are in place, we put regulations in place not for us or to police us, you know, but it's for the public. So that they can get the best quality medication and at an affordable cost; So we're talking about medications coming from the US, coming from Canada from first world countries."

"With this new law, they don't provide GMP, they don't provide certificate of analysis which is another requirement for the ministry. So, the products that we are used to, because they do not have those requirements we are boxed out from importing them.  And so we are, we are basically forced to purchase the medications that are in this region which may not have the same high standard of quality we're used to." 

Jules Vasquez

"Explain a drug or a popular pharmaceutical product which someone may want to use, but falls under that "GDP" regime."

Latricia Staine Enriquez

"Ok, there is a hormone replacement therapy medication, very popular medication by the name of "Premarin." Landed here in Belize, we can retail that for about $28.00 dollars Belize."

Jules Vasquez

"Landed from?"

Latricia Staine Enriquez

"Landed from the UK/Europe. When we're not able to get it, we get the same Premarin medication through Mexico and its $115.00 retail."

Jules Vasquez

"For those people who depend on drugs imported from the first world countries, Europe and the United States, they should expect a sharp increase in the price of their medications?"

Wayne Vernon - Belize Community Pharmacist Association

"If the wholesalers decide any at all that will continue to bring medications of that nature?"

Latricia Staine Enriquez

"Why reinvent the wheel? The FDA they have the regulatory boards they have good quality testing they have been doing this for years. We know that medication that comes from the first world countries are of high standards.  When you give something to the public, do you want to question what they are getting?" 

The association also complains that the Ministry did not consult with them during the process of implementing the new regulations:

Wayne Vernon

"We asked ministry to engage us - we asked them if they need help with anything - we asked them if they need guidelines. Your pharmacist that decide on medication for the market and we put forward those information, and no response. Nothing else came forward from that meeting, alight?  No consultation on new laws, nothing at all. That meeting was for the introduction of the association, that's it." 

The Ministry of Health had no comment.  In July the Ministry had reported that 23 pharmaceutical importers/wholesalers and 37 retail pharmacies had a valid Ministry of Health facility license, out of approximately 50 wholesalers and 120 retail pharmacies countrywide. The Ministry would not provide updated figures today, but as of November first it is the law that such licenses are required and must be displayed.

Channel 7