…department to take legal action against defaultersThe Government Analyst Food and Drug Department (GA-F&DD) will be moving against those suppliers who would have supplied institutions in the public health care system with unregistered drugs.According to the GA-F&DD Director, Marlon Cole, the department has received complaints from patients who have received unregistered drugs, and those complaints indicate that this is a widespread problem.“We have environmental officers in all the regions who are appointed Food and Drug Inspectors and carry out our mandate on our behalf. We have regional coverage there. We have persons that would go to the Customs Department and refer entries we would have an interest in. So we have some protection at ports,” he explained.Cole further explained that inspections are carried out at storage bonds and places where these drugs are distributed by the department’s own city inspectors. And then, of course, he noted the mechanisms in place for consumers to lodge complaints…for instance, in the case of wrong labelling.“We will be taking legal action against some importers who are knowingly and deliberately releasing and distributing unregistered drugs into the national health care system. We have been receiving complaints about drugs that are not safe and efficacious after they’ve been used, and we are heavily dependent on those reports emanating out of the health care system,” he explained.“In addition, we would be embarking on our pharmaceutical vigilance system in addition to doing some surveys,” Cole explained. “But the problem with unregistered drugs is widespread, and we’re tackling it in the same way we’re dealing with food.”DrugsLast year, the Public Health Ministry introduced a new system for procuring of drugs and medical supplies, with the aim of enhancing the efficiency and effectiveness of the drug supply chain in the country.This was accompanied by several changes in the bidding documents, which were intended to create a more level playing field among competitors. Following the massive shortage of drugs in the country, the then Public Health Minister, Dr George Norton, admitted that the change in the procurement system is probably the likely cause for the drug shortages being experienced.Previously, Public Health Minister Volda Lawrence had said that, in 2016 and 2017, several firms were awarded contracts to supply pharmaceuticals to the health sector, but failed to deliver.The International Pharmaceutical Agency (IPA) was one of those companies that failed to supply all of the drugs it was expected to deliver, because it was not qualified to import some specialised pharmaceuticals.In January 2016, IPA was awarded two contracts to supply the GPHC with pharmaceuticals and medical supplies. On one of the contracts — for $36.5 million — the company delivered only 80 per cent of the pharmaceuticals, because it was not qualified to supply the remainder.The remaining 20 per cent of drugs consisted of narcotics, including morphine, which required special certification for importation. It is understood that in order for a firm to import narcotics-type pharmaceuticals, it must be registered in order to be granted a licence.But the company was not registered to import those categories of drugs, and was therefore denied a licence by the GA-FDD.It has been argued that pre-qualification (a practice from which Government has moved away) could have prevented a company that is not registered to provide specialised drugs from getting the contract.
Having already faced reduced prices for their paddy and increased production costs, farmers in Region Two (Pomeroon-Supenaam) are encountering even more challenges since they say they were forced to destroy over 1000 acres of their rice at State Farm, which lies aback of Dartmouth on the Essequibo Coast.An Essequibo Coast rice farmer lights his field afireGuyana Times understands that in their bid to prevent a complete annihilation of the crop, some of which was badly damaged, the farmers set the crops on fire due to ‘Blast and Bug’ infestation on Tuesday.This publication was told that over 10 farmers, who rented the farmlands from Caricom Rice Mills Limited, said due to heavy rainfall for the past three crops, the land had to be prepared under water. It was stated too that the little sunlight that prevailed was blamed for the bug infestation as this was the “ideal weather” pattern for the breeding of bugs.The farmers said they are appealing to Government to assist them to return to the land as they are afraid of losing everything since many of them have loans with commercial banks and other lending institutions. Most of the rice farmers are in the business for over 20 years and said they never experienced such challenges in the industry.They claimed that a test was done on a plot to assess the damage, which reportedly found that more than 95 per cent of the grains were damaged. It was stated further that for the remaining portions, it will not be feasible for them to reap and transport their produce to the rice mills. Some of the farmers even complained of sleepless nights owing to their losses and debts.“How can we explain to the banks; where are we going to find the money to repay the loans, how can we take care of our families, our children have to go to school,” were the cries of the farmers.They united and are calling for Agriculture Minister Noel Holder to meet with them to sort out solutions regarding how their livelihood can be sustained.It was only last month that the Region Two farmers accused Government of “turning a blind eye” on the industry, when they were engaged by Anna Regina Deputy Mayor Darshan Persaud. They claimed that the current Administration was not doing enough for rice farmers, saying this would have a great impact on one of the main sources of food and foreign currency earner to the country. Following the recent destruction of the crop, the farmers say they are desperately seeking an intervention.Persaud had told Guyana Times that the complaints of farmers extended to accusations that millers were taking out 24 per cent of the earnings as dockage fees which translates to about $1200 per bag of paddy. When looking at the expenses for cultivation, many farmers said they were not in a financial position to plant the next crop.Farmers had also said that even though Regional Executive Officer Rupert Hopkinson was seen “boasting on Facebook about developments of parks and recreational facilities in the region”; there was much need for the servicing and maintenance of the regional machinery. They had explained that this is vital in the maintenance of farm to market roads, trenches, dams and other key areas in the agricultural sector. Regional Chairman Devanand Ramdatt had noted that more than 80 per cent of the region’s 50,000 plus residents are directly or indirectly connected to the rice industry.