Antigua: Woman arrested for selling pharmaceuticals without licence

By Antigua Observer

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(ANTIGUA OBSERVER) – Charges are likely to be filed against at least one woman who was arrested for the alleged illegal trading/sale of pharmaceuticals which the authorities confiscated on Saturday following a tip off about a vendor selling the items in the market area known as “Bend Down”.

The authorities are meanwhile searching for a number of other people linked to the items found in the woman’s possession at about 9 a.m. that day.

The Director of Pharmaceuticals and Chief Drug Inspector within the Minister of Health, Alfred Athill

declined to confirm what exactly was recovered, but he reported that he is among those investigating the matter.

“As the chief drug inspector … I was called. I was not able to respond to the call immediately so the person who alerted us called another of the drug inspectors and she responded with the police and made the seizures. And, then I proceeded to go to the police station in St. John’s to further investigate the matter and have further discussion with the lady that was apprehended and the police,” he said.

The woman, whose identity was not disclosed, was questioned about numerous drugs found on her stall to include vitamins being promoted with the powerful pain killer Voltaren, several boxes labeled Amoxicillin and Ampicillin, vaginal inserts with antibiotics and other items, according to another source close to the matter.

Some of the labels are in Spanish with no English translation. During the operation, which drew a small crowd, the woman indicated she was not aware she needed a licence to sell the items. And, she was backed up by several vendors and other people present who said she has been selling such items for years.

The woman appeared to be in her 50s and spoke fluent Spanish while conversing with someone on the phone, in the presence of the police.

At one point she told an officer “no, no” and tried to take items from him as he began confiscating them.

According to a medical source, when improperly administered some of the confiscated drugs, such as the inserts with antibiotics, “create mutant strains of fungus and bacteria.”

And, without commenting on whether this batch that was seized was counterfeit, Athill said the issue of counterfeit or falsified medication is very serious and residents need to be more responsible,

“By counterfeit I mean the items could either be deficient in the active ingredient or have other things as active ingredients that [are] not necessarily quantified or you may have a label but the active ingredient is not necessarily what it says it is. Now you are purchasing items from a person at the road side, do you know exactly what you are getting, I don’t think so. Because it says amoxicillin on the box how do you verify or how do you know that you are purchasing amoxicillin?” he asked rhetorically.

He then advised, “If you have a medical issue your first course of action [should be] to seek reputable and legitimate medical advice from the pharmacist, the nurse, the doctor. If you go to ‘Bend Down’ and you purchase an item, the possibility exists that you may not be getting what you think you are getting and at the end of the day should something go wrong who would be held responsible?”

The health ministry official said that due to the public health risk of illegal trading of pharmaceuticals, the authorities will be using their powers to stop such activities, and the effort to clamp down on offenders “started on Saturday.”

Not only can someone be fined for breaching any provision of The Pharmacy Act or regulations under the Act which call for licensing, but they can also be jailed for up to 12 months upon conviction before a magistrate.

Athill said health officials have no tolerance for those breaching the laws.

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