MINISTER of Health Terrence Deyalsingh is appealing to people who have hoarded stocks of chloroquine medicines in a misguided precaution against covid19 to hand over the drugs so people who need it most can get access.
Deyalsingh, speaking at a briefing at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann's, on Monday, said people who were suffering from malaria, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus were facing the double-edge sword of drug shortages and dramatic price increases.
Deyalsingh said that was caused by people hoarding the drug with the unsubstantiated belief that they could be used to treat covid19.
"Let me just say that there is absolutely no evidence that chloroquine or hydrochloroquine, either by itself or in combination with a zithromycin (antibiotic), can be used safely and effectively in the treatment of covid19.
"What has happened in Trinidad is that, because of panic buying (and) the exhaustion of stocks in the private sector, patients cannot now access that drug which is life-saving."
The price of chloroquine at the retail level, he said, has risen from $3.20 to $10 per tablet.
He said the three groups of patients had been elevated to "at-risk" due to the shortage.
"And having chloroquine stored in your house, for which you have no use, for which you don't know how to use, and you intend to use it, creates a danger to you.
Deyalsingh added that he has reached out to head of the pharmaceutical board, Andrew Rahaman, to have him appeal to his membership to address the matter and encourage people who have purchase the drug inadvertently to either return it, or to give it to recognised organisations.
"I am also appealing to pharmacy owners that, at this time of concern, it is not the time to capriciously raise your prices.I want to ask pharmacy owners and operators that price gouging in a a time like this is not how we behave."