Government to Begin Consultations on National Drug Plan


By: Matt Maura

NASSAU, Bahamas –
The Government of The Bahamas, through the Ministry of Health, will “shortly” commence a series of consultations with pharmaceutical suppliers and pharmacists on its proposed National Drug Plan, Minister of Health and Social Development, Dr. the Hon. Hubert Minnis said.

The discussions, he noted, will be used to get input on the proposed plan in an attempt to see how the parties can work together to achieve the desired results.

Dr. Minnis said the focus of the National Drug Plan, which is expected to be introduced “in the not too distant future,” is to increase access to prescription drugs by chronic disease patients.

“You would appreciate that drug therapy is an important component of the treatment regime to manage and control the health and financial burden faced by individuals and the community as a whole, because of the high prevalence of chronic diseases,” Dr. Minnis said during an address at the opening session of the annual Bahamian Health System Pharmacists Retreat.

“In addition to increasing access, the Plan will also provide healthcare providers with information on compliance, which is essential for controlling the effect of chronic, non-communicable diseases (CNCDs) in patients.”

Dr. Minnis confirmed that the Plan will be administered by the National Insurance Board. He said officials at the Ministry of Health have been working “diligently” with officials from the Ministry of Housing and National Insurance on the development of a viable, efficient and cost effective plan.

“Pharmacists will, of course, play a significant role in the successful implementation of the Plan,” Dr. Minnis added.

The Health and Social Development Minister said the need for an effective National Drug Plan arose as a result of an increase in the prevalence of chronic, non-communicable diseases in The Bahamas and the impact they have had on the health facilities at both public hospitals and the primary care facilities.

“The prevalence of chronic, non-communicable diseases such as obesity, diabetes, coronary heart disease, strokes and cancers, in our country is unacceptably high,” Dr. Minnis said. “Our CNCD mortality data show that in 2001, these diseases accounted for nearly 45 per cent of all deaths and by 2003, CNCD-related deaths had risen to 57.4 per cent. In 2005, that figure rose to 65 per cent.

“This increasing trend represents a growing disease burden on our people, the delivery of healthcare and the economy. Like other countries in the Caribbean region, the prevalence of chronic, non-communicable diseases and their impact on our health facilities at both public and hospitals and our primary healthcare facilities contribute significantly to the cost of the provision of healthcare,” Dr. Minnis added.

The Government of The Bahamas, he pointed out, subscribes to the internationally accepted principle that health is a fundamental human right, not a privilege, and to the view that quality health care must be universal in its application.

“As healthcare costs continue to rise, it is essential for us to improve our understanding of the clinical, economic and social implications of budgeting for the healthcare system,” Dr. Minnis said.