Fresh batch of cancer drugs in T&T

By Shaliza Hassanali
Cancer patients can expect some relief soon as the first batch of fresh oncology drugs arrived in T&T yesterday.

Confirmation came from Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh at yesterday’s post-Cabinet media briefing at the Office of the Prime Minister, St Clair.

Although the Ministry of Health in a press release on Tuesday had promised a shipment of cancer medication would arrive in the first week of this month for immediate distribution, Deyalsingh said the delivery process had been fast tracked and the medication was now in T&T.

“I have been working with our procurement partner, Nipdec, to try to get the drugs in earlier. I have been doing this over the past three weeks.

“Nipdec has assured me that the first major shipment of oncology drugs, including other pharmaceuticals, will start to arrive in the country from September 1 through the first week in September,” Deyalsingh added.

Once the drugs were cleared and sent to the warehouse, Deyalsingh said it would be distributed expeditiously to all the public health institutions that treated oncology patients.

These institutions include the St James Radiotherapy Centre, Port-of-Spain General Hospital, Sangre Grande Hospital, Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex and San Fernando General Hospital.

However, Deyalsingh said the drugs would not be available at private pharmacies.

“These oncology drugs are for the public sector,” he said.

In the midst of a critical shortage of medi­cation at the nation’s hospitals and health centres, which had left some cancer patients fearful that they may die, Finance Minister Colm Imbert last month disclosed that $245 million had been approved to bring relief.

Yesterday, Deyalsingh assured a second batch of oncology drugs would arrive in the third and fourth weeks of this month and, in one month’s time, the country would have its full supply of oncology drugs.

He noted part of the problem for issues like the shortage was that the ministry had neglected its role to oversee its contract partners, like Nipdec and GMRTT. However, he said it had since established a monitoring and evaluation division which would hold to account partners who it relied on to provide goods and services.

“It is my intention and responsibility that once drugs are available internationally and once our chain management systems are working that these perennial and annual shortages of critical drugs, like oncology drugs, should be a thing of the past,” Deyalsingh promised. (Trinidad Guardian)

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