Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh said the importation of unregistered, illegal drugs has been going on for over 40 years. He said since he became a pharmacist 40 years ago it has been a problem.
He made this statement after the ministry recalled the eye medication Triamcinolone Acetonide Injection Bp (N-Cort 40mg/Ml Intravitreal/ Intraocular Use), Batch No NC-O2 with expiry date March 2022, when seven patients went blind after receiving the medication. It was thought that there was a possible bacterial contamination.
This is a product of Nischi Lifesciences b141/142 Mahagujarat Indl. Estate, Moraiya, Ahmedabad-382213 (India), and is primarily used by specialist ophthalmologists (eye specialists).
Deyalsingh was speaking on Sunday at the Palliative Care Society conference at the Hyatt Regency when asked how the drug made its way into TT, Deyalsingh said the drug was not registered in TT and came in via illegal channels.
"How will I know? It is not that I am abdicating my responsibilities. The Health Ministry mans the legal port of entries--Piarco, Crown Point and the Port of Port of Spain. We do not man illegal ports of entry, so there is no way for me to know how did the drugs come in. It is the same way cocaine and marijuana come in, we don't know."
The minister said when the issue came to the attention of the ministry in July all the patients were immediately contacted and asked to come in to be assessed by the public health system.
"Our first responsibility is to the patients. We seized all the drugs and we contacted all the private physicians who bought all these unregistered illegal drugs. Doctors and pharmacists have a responsibility which they are abdicating by purchasing illegal, unregistered drugs and hurting people. We cannot man every mangrove that brings in drugs, every beach, but doctors and pharmacists have an ethical responsibility to their patients not to purchase unregistered drugs. This has been going on for 40 years because the profit motive is so high that greed triumphs ethics, and that is what happened in this case."
When asked what will happen to the doctors held responsible for this action, the minister carefully worded his response saying the doctors and the importers are to be held in account.
"I have to be very guarded when I speak because nothing I say in the public domain should jeopardise the legal case which is going to follow. Nothing I say in the public domain should be advantageous to the litigants who have been affected, or the doctors who administered the drug or the importer. That is for the court of law. As Minister of Health I have to take a very neutral stance and walk a very fine line how I speak in the public domain. The forum to assign guilt is the courts of law and that is why you are seeing even the patients don't want to speak in the public domain because they have legal advice."
He said this was a fault of those who knowingly purchased unregistered drugs and put patients in danger.
Any consumers who have this drug in their possession are strongly advised to refrain from use and contact the Chemistry Food and Drugs Division immediately at 868-623-5242 and 800-2333.