Cabinet sub-committee approves draft new pharmacy bill
Guyana Chronicle
February 1, 2002

A SUB-COMMITTEE has approved a draft of proposed new legislation on pharmacies and it has been submitted to the full Cabinet for consideration, Minister of Health, Dr Leslie Ramsammy disclosed on Sunday.

The Government Information Agency (GINA) said he told the annual general meeting of Guyana Pharmacy Association (GPA) he hopes the law would be approved for tabling in Parliament this year.

Ramsammy said the details in the Pharmacy Bill have been around for some time now and were discussed in detail by his Ministry, prior to being subjected to wide consultation and endorsement by GPA.

Speaking to the gathering, at Main Street Plaza Hotel in Georgetown, he said statute will create a more conductive environment for enhancing the practice of pharmacy and the role of pharmacists and related professions.

It would also assist in the creation of a better atmosphere that will allow the profession to respond more effectively to present and future challenges, Ramsammy assured, encouraging the professionals to prepare for coming challenges.

He said changes in the sector have not been matched in the legal framework that guides the practice of pharmacy, despite the 1956 Pharmacy and Poisons Ordinance and the 1971 Food and Drug Act, which, together, regulate standards and monitor and evaluate mechanisms for the performance of the functions.

Ramsammy acknowledged that the 1956 law is outdated and in urgent need of reform.

He explained that the 1971 promulgation was intended to significantly change the system but never did and, as a consequence, major redundancies now exist between the two Acts.

In the meantime, the 1971 Act has also become inadequate to deal with contemporary realities and, because of this, the Ministry is seeking to repeal the 1956 one and replace it with the Pharmacy Practitioners Act and a revised Food and Drugs Act.

“This move, by the Ministry of Health, will modernise the laws, making them more responsive to contemporary circumstances and removing some of the conflicts between the Pharmacy and Poisons Ordinance and the Food and Drugs Act,” Ramsammy contended.

He said, while alterations of the previous Acts incorporated in the new Pharmacy Practitioners Act will not address all the changes in the sector, they would be in keeping with modern medicine, adding different categories of medication and levels of professionals, for which there was no previous provision.

Ramsammy stressed the urgent need for the implementation to regulate several levels of professional work and functions in the field today.

“We have doctors doing the pharmacists’ job and vice versa,” he revealed, highlighting the necessity to set professional benchmarks, especially those related to training and continuing education.

The Minister is hoping to establish a Pharmacy Practitioners Council, following passage of the draft legislation, making allowance for clients to raise complaints.

Ramsammy urged the pharmacists to equip themselves to meet most of the challenges in modern medicine, which is “changing from nature to bio-engineering”.

“Today, almost 60 to 70 per cent of the drugs used come from nature, rapidly changing as the human genome is deciphered,” he observed.

Ramsammy said pharmacists must remember their commitment to the nation and those who own pharmacies should distinguish between their commercial venture and their profession.

“Many times, the pharmacists are businessmen and there is a conflict of interest. How do you reconcile the roles when the objectives are not the same?” he asked.

“One means you have to assist people to make the right choice for their health and the other is that you have to sell the product to make a profit. That is where the advocacy role of the organisation comes in,” Ramsamy said.

He commended GPA on its relationship with his Ministry, saying the two have had meaningful dialogue, which can be a role model for other organisations in the sector.

With the motto of ‘Service to Humanity’, GPA had 140 registered members up to 2001, said the President, Mr. Cecil Jacques.