The Food and Drug Division has confiscated several unregistered drugs, including vitamins, from over 40 pharmacies across Trinidad and Tobago,
Among the seized items was the Emergen-C vitamin drink mix.
The vitamin mix is only being seized by the division because pharmacy owners failed to register the item.
The value of the drugs seized was estimated at $.5 million.
Former Pharmacy Board president, Wazir Hosein, in a GML report, revealed that the crackdown was discussed at a special general meeting by the board at Mount Hope last Sunday.
However, Hosein contended that the confiscation was unjust to pharmacy owners, as they were never given a list of the unregistered drugs they may have in contravention of the law beforehand.
“The drugs are seized without proper notice. It is alleged that certain medication is not registered and is coming into the country, but this begs the question, how is it coming in?” Hosein said.
He explained that some of the drugs seized have been sold over the counter to consumers for the past 15 to 20 years.
“Also, we do not have information about what is registered and what is not. Our registration is archaic, long, time-consuming and frustrating. If a product has a label change, the length of time it takes with all our red tape is unbelievable,” Hosein said.
Hosein told the media house that a failure by the Ministry of Health to provide a list of unregistered drugs has left pharmacists in the dark about their inventory’s compliance.
He called on the ministry to improve the drug registration system, saying it was too bureaucratic. He said it is not the responsibility of pharmacists to verify the registration status of the drugs they are selling.
In order to alleviate the problem, Hosein urged the ministry to establish a database that would enable instant access to information about all unregistered drugs.
Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh said all registered drugs are gazetted and are in the public domain. He said a listing is also available online to all pharmacists.
Deyalsingh said they are ramping up surveillance to protect the public’s health and well-being.
He added: “I am surprised that a former president of the Pharmacy Board would not be supporting our efforts to protect the public from unregistered and expired drugs, which we are also looking closely at.”
He said all data gathered by the division will be forwarded to the police and errant pharmacists caught selling unregistered, illegal or expired drugs can face prosecution.