President of the Pharmacy Board, Andrew Rahaman, says some pharmacists in Trinidad and Tobago purchase pharmaceutical drugs through illegitimate means despite the board’s stance against this practice.
Rahaman was reacting yesterday to reports that two pharmacists had been jailed in England for illegally supplying prescription sleeping pill Zolpidem valued at £600,000 to a mystery buyer in this country.
British media reported that Dean Dookhan, 40, and Narvinder Nandra, 48, used their businesses as a cover to wholesale more than 20,000 packets of Zolpidem to a mystery figure in Trinidad and Tobago for a profit.
“Between September 2015 and May 2016, the pair managed to shift 20,790 packets—equal to 582,120 individual tablets—to their Caribbean contact who was not a legitimate pharmacist,” a British news report stated.
Dookhan and Nandra had previously pleaded guilty to supplying a controlled Class C drug to another and possessing a medicinal product for the purpose of wholesale distribution without a licence. They were sentenced to prison during a hearing at the Birmingham Crown Court on Monday.
In sentencing the pair, Judge Francis Laird QC said pharmacists are trusted to purchase, store and supply under prescription a variety of drugs, some of which are controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act.
“It’s for that reason that selling a controlled drug on the black market is such a serious offence,” he stated.
“You both played a leading role and are equally culpable in the offences. You both grossly abused your position as pharmacists and the business premises which you worked to carry out the offences.”
Dookhan was sentenced to 27 months in prison while Nandra received a 30-month sentence.
Rahaman told the Express yesterday that he had no idea who the local people were purchasing the black-market drugs, but he noted that the drugs often-times do end up on legitimate pharmacy shelves.
“Pharmacies are generally advised to avoid suitcase traders but we do have, I am sure, some members who may not pay importance to that advice and proceed to buy. Those things have to be registered and have to come in through Customs. It ends up passing through Customs still and ends up in our market on a lot of occasions.”
Rahaman said this practice is being driven by the public demand for certain drugs which people want access to without having a prescription.
“So, the public is really providing a demand for it but those who want it they should really get their medication through prescription and through the normal route.”
Rahaman said the Ministry of Health’s Food and Drug Division can identify where these drugs ended up by checking for batch numbers. However, he said it would be many pharmacies to check and the ministry may not have the manpower to do it.
Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh did not respond to a request for comment on the matter.