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Senate passes generic drug rule changes

Bermuda can import medicine from any country in the world, as long as the drugs are eligible for sale in the US, Canada or EU member states.

Junior Health Minister Cromwell Shakir told the Senate yesterday that cheaper generic drugs had resulted in savings of up to 93 percent for the Department of Corrections.

The Pharmacy and Poisons Amendment Act was passed by the Upper House, with some Senators expressing reservations for the length of time between the amendment and the passage of new regulations.

“The proposal amendments are small in number, but substantial in impact,” Mr Shakir told the Senate.

Along with doing away with a set list of countries allowed for importation, the principal change is that commercial importers will be required to register with the Ministry of Health.

He added that a policy document for the Act is now being developed, “with the full support of the pharmacist community in Bermuda”.

Mr Shakir said he had heard from a Bermudian whose pharmacist recommended a $40 generic version of a medication that would otherwise have cost $500.

Corrections saw a drop from $115 to $8.50 for one prescription drug, and 25 percent savings for generic versions of over-the-counter antacids.

Shadow Health Minister Kathy Michelmore voiced support for the legislation, but added: “There are some concerns that we need to make the intentions of the legislation clearer.”

She added: “What is sidetracked in the debate is that in Bermuda most generic drugs are currently available. I have not been provided with a list of those that are not.”

And she said it was “not enough for us to rely on regulations that are coming later”, after the bill.

Independents Senator Walwyn Hughes and Joan Dillas-Wright agreed that it was important to know when new regulations would be introduced.

Sen Hughes added that he had recently enquired about a generic alternative in his own pharmacy, only to be told that it was more expensive.

Government Senator LaVerne Furbert said she had been offered generic Indian-manufactured drugs, but had been offended when the pharmacist said Indian products were of poor quality.

Senate Leader Kim Wilson assured the Upper House that the passing of the bill would be swiftly followed by policy development with all stakeholders involved.

Sen Michelmore called for an amendment to a clause in the Act, saying it was not enough to know that a drug could be available for sale in another jurisdiction.

Government Senator David Burt responded that the Act referred to medicines that were for sale, not medicines that were available.

Sen Furbert added: “I’m also concerned when I hear that Sen Michelmore has spoken with members of the pharmacist community, and that they are not in agreement with the amendment. If that’s how they feel, why did they not give this information to the Minister?”

Sen Michelmore’s proposed amendment was called “redundant” by both Sens Wilson and Burt, and her proposal was defeated in a vote.

The bill was then unanimously approved.

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Published August 04, 2011 at 2:00 am (Updated August 04, 2011 at 9:50 am)

Senate passes generic drug rule changes

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