Andrew Rahaman

President of the Pharmacy Board of Trinidad and Tobago Andrew Rahaman 

DRUGS such as Chloroquine and Hydroxychloroquine aren’t the only items that have seen a significant increase in prices at local drug stores since the Covid-19 (coronavirus) was declared a pandemic.

According to customers, there has also been price-gouging on items such as face masks, methylated spirit, Redoxon vitamins and gloves.

President of the Pharmacy Board of Trinidad and Tobago Andrew Rahaman told the Express by phone yesterday, “We are aware of the increase in prices of the face masks. However, my information is that wholesalers have catapulted up their prices. We (pharmacies) are being blamed but consumers don’t know that its coming from the wholesalers. We too have been getting the items at higher prices.”

Rahaman also explained that retailers have had a mark up of 30 per cent since 1986.

However, he stated that wholesalers have always had the freedom to mark up their prices at any time.

One customer who visited Quikpharm on Frederick Street, Port of Spain, said, “Masks used to be $2 and $3 and now it’s $60. Methylated spirit used to be $8 and $12, it’s now $25.”

In addition to the significant price increase, customers are also complaining of face masks being out of stock.

When the Express contacted Busy Corner Drugs in Chaguanas, Montrose Pharmacy, 10th Avenue Drugs in Barataria and Personal Care Pharmacy in Aranguez, face masks were all out of stock.

At Ali’s Pharmacy at Grand Bazaar, Complete Care in Curepe, Farro’s Pharmacy Ltd in St James and Medicare Drugs Ltd in Tunapuna, they were all out of stock of Methylated Spirit.

Additionally, after visiting Bhagan’s Drugs at Broadway, Port of Spain, the customer also said, “I used to purchase Redoxon by the box and now they are not selling it like that anymore. You can only get it in loose packs and its now $8 for two.”

This was also the same experience for other customers at other drugstores as well.

One pharmacist at Roopnarine Pharmacy in D’Abadie explained, the reason for no longer selling vitamins by the box is due to the fact that they are receiving lesser amounts and as a result now have to “ration it to customers”.

An employee at Ali’s Pharmacy at Grand Bazaar said, “We’re selling only one box of Redoxon per customer.”

Rahaman also said, “Items such as Redoxon, Goldenseal, Emergen-C and Zinc, haven’t really been available for quite some time.”

Speaking at a press conference yesterday, Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh said, “I want to ask pharmacy owners and pharmacy operators that price-gouging in a time like this is not how we behave.”

Deyalsingh also said he has been in contact with Rahaman to appeal to pharmacies not to increase their prices at this time.

However, Rahaman said, “I will look at it from two sides. There has been no government concern on the markup from wholesalers. Now is the time to look at that. I will also continue to communicate with pharmacies about keeping their prices down on these other items.”

Also at the press conference yesterday, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley announced that all pharmacies will be required to close to the public by 8 p.m. from today until April 30.

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