Switching now to public health, It's a major concern that the public often has had - whether inferior and ineffective medicines were being deployed in the public healthcare system. And today, 7News obtained documents showing a snapshot of the problem - and revealing that sometimes these defective or expired drugs do end up being distributed to patients.
Courtney Menzies has a breakdown of a Quality Assurance Review that was leaked to our newsroom. Here's what she saw:
How often do you inspect the medication you get from any pharmacy? Typically, you would trust the pharmacist, and eager to either get rid of or treat your illness, that you'd just pop a pill without thinking twice.
But reports of substandard medication on the shelves of local pharmacies have been a concern for members of the public, and these leaked documents show that maybe you'll want to take a closer look next time you fill out your prescriptions.
These are Pharmaceutical and Medical Equipment and Devices Quality Assurance Product Report Forms, which detail six different medicines and other medical supplies that were received at the KHMH, and one from the Northern Regional Hospital. However, each one had some sort of defect.
The first form is from November 2022, where tablets of Erythromycin - an antibiotic - from "Kwality Pharmaceuticals Limited" were found with brown spots. Fortunately, this was discovered before it could be distributed to patients.
It's the same for a batch of Gemfibrozil - used to treat abnormal blood lipid levels - which the KHMH got from the Central Medical Stores in July of 2022, and which would not expire until 2024. When inspected, it was found to have deteriorated, and there was visible disintegration of the coating.
But it's not always the case that the problem is found before the medication is distributed. In the case of some lubricating jelly, it had been distributed to Accident & Emergency and Labor & Delivery before someone noticed that it had particles resembling mold or fungus inside the jelly.
And in the case of a batch of Dicloxacillin - another antibiotic in powder form - black particles were found after reconstitution. In addition, the pills had expired five months before the report was made. And the form says that the medication had already been dispensed to patients before anyone noticed the particles. However, up to the time the report was made on November 4th, there were no complaints from patients.
All seven medications were pulled from the pharmacy shelves - or they never reached there - for further investigation. On the forms, the reasons given for the breakdown in quality was either the manufacturer, or that the shipping or storage conditions were not ideal.
According to the CEO at KHMH, Chandra Cansino, KHMH's quality assurance unit is normally very attentive and in these cases, they would normally remove the products and report it to the ministry. She also added that these incidents have been less widespread in the past couple of years than before.
But these seven reports only present a snapshot of the problem, which could be more frequent than we think. And we don't know what came out of the reports but experts say that the penalty clauses in tender contracts are rarely used - if ever. So, any patient with a prescription would be wise to inspect their own medication before taking them home, just in case theirs is from an expired or inferior batch.
We will be following up with the Ministry of Health in their next press engagement.
LOO Says Hustling Affecting Quality Of Meds
And today the Leader of the Opposition said he believes that the defective medication is a result of government hustling.
And while defective meds are certainly a PUDP problem - he said it should have come to an end with this new government:
Shyne Barrow, Leader of the Opposition
"You have so many pharmaceutical companies that got registered when the Briceno Administration took office, over night, when before you used to have a rigorous screening process and you had to be qualified to bring in the medicine that would treat our Belizeans. They have turned this into a hustle. Again, you say PUDP style, I like to look at it as successive governments are supposed to come in and make things better. I always suspected that all this PUP government wanted to go was get their turn, so now it's their turn to hustle in immigration, to hustle in immigration, do you know how many motions came to the House for money for healthcare? For the Ministry of Health? Under the former minister, under the current minister, where is all this money going to?"