JIS News

In response to the rising demand for health care services and pharmaceuticals in the Corporate Area, Health Corporation Limited has opened its first medical complex and eighth pharmaceutical facility under the Drug Serv Programme at Union Square, Cross Roads in Kingston.
Health Minister, John Junor, speaking at the official opening of the facility this morning (May 4) said that it reinforced the Health Corporation’s commitment to creating a strong, viable and effective health supply to meet the country’s health care needs.
To date, one million prescriptions have been filled for generic and brand name pharmaceuticals and over the counter drugs under the Drug Serv programme whose slogan is ‘Affordable Health Care Just for You’.
In commending the work done under the programme, Minister Junor noted that it “has been a boon in a number of ways particularly in the Jamaica Drug for the Elderly Programme (JADEP), which enables persons 60 years and over suffering from chronic diseases to acquire their medication at significantly lower market prices.”
Minister Junor said that the Health Corporation, by supplying the drugs for the JADEP programme, had enabled widened reach with respect to the number of persons covered. Currently 135,000 persons are registered under the programme.
Minister Junor stressed that JADEP would continue despite the introduction of the National Health Fund (NHF) and informed that “a special provision is being made for the continuation of the programme in recognition of the needs of the over 60 population in terms of affordability.”
He also pointed out that beneficiaries of the NHF could be transferred to the JADEP programme at the age of 60, as the NHF assisted largely persons under 60 who suffered from the 14 major conditions named by the health services, some of which overlap with those identified in the JADEP programme.
The Health Minister further clarified that the NHF was not predicated on total payment or omitting the majority of the costs for the 14 identified diseases but was instead a subsidy. He informed that the average subsidy, which had been applied so far, was 30 per cent and pointed out that the higher the treatment cost the higher the subsidy given. Minister Junor said this was in recognition that the difficulty in purchasing pharmaceuticals was one factor that inhibited the proper treatment of many of the conditions.
Further developments will see the construction of an entirely new polyclinic in the Crossroads area for which designs are being completed. Minister Junor noted that this was an attempt to relieve the Glen Vincent Polyclinic facility located in the area, which was unable to meet patient demands because of limited space. He also announced that another Drug Serv Pharmacy would be opened in the next three to four months.
Minister Junor further indicated that discussions were ongoing, which he said, would lead to a further significant reduction in the cost of anti-retroviral drugs for the treatment of HIV/AIDS.
Previous negotiations between Jamaica, other CARICOM members and pharmaceutical companies had seen the costs being reduced from about US$12,000 per year to about US$1200. Minister Junor noted that although this was significant, it still remained outside the affordability range of most of the persons suffering from the condition. He said discussions were continuing and it was hoped that the amount would be further reduced to about US$220 per year.
“If we get it to that stage then I can give the assurance that we will give consideration to including antiretrovirals under the NHF and to normalize the disease to the point where it is considered a chronic disease and remove one of the basis of stigma in the treatment of the disease,” the Health Minister stated. He, however, cautioned that the provision of treatment was not to be treated as a licence for people to relax the vigilance on preventative measures.
The Government in 1996 mandated Health Corporation Limited (which was established in 1994) to set up retail pharmacies under the Drug Serv Programme in order to cushion escalating costs of pharmaceutical products and improve medication compliance for persons who could not afford vital medication.
The first Drug Serv was opened in May 1997 and was an expansion of the then Drug Window programme operated by the Ministry, of utilizing feasible drug window locations as professional pharmacies.
Presently, Drug Serv Pharmacies are to be found in Kingston, St. Catherine, St.Thomas, Manchester, Westmoreland, St. Elizabeth and Clarendon.
The pharmacy at Union Square is the first to be set up outside a health centre or Hospital and provides a wider range of products including nutritional, cosmetic, herbal products as well as health aids.
The complex has designated areas that will be rented to doctors for office space.
The Health Corporation also celebrates its 10th anniversary this year and will observe the occasion with a church service on Sunday, June 6, at the Boulevard Baptist Church and a health fair at Emancipation Park on Saturday, June 12.

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