Gov’t Awards $3.3 Billion In Contracts For Pharmaceuticals

The Government of Jamaica has awarded 43 pharmaceutical contracts, valued at $3.3 billion, for two years supply of essential drugs for Jamaicans through the public health facilities.

The National Health Fund (NHF) signed the contracts with the local and international suppliers Thursday morning (Sept. 6) at the Jamaica Conference Centre, downtown Kingston.

Lasco Distributors Ltd. was awarded the largest contract of $763 million; followed by Medimpex West Indies Ltd., for just over $195 million; and Apotex Inc., at $160 million.

Minister of Health, Hon. Dr. Fenton Ferguson, in his remarks at the signing ceremony, informed that the contracts will cover some 894 items on the Vital, Essential and Necessary (VEN List) of pharmaceuticals.

Included are items needed for the Jamaica Drugs for the Elderly Programme (JADEP), and for the treatment of virtually all routinely seen conditions presented at the public health institutions, such as cancers, chronic kidney disease, and analgesics for pain, among others.

The Health Minister stated that the number of pharmaceuticals being provided and the money being spent “is signal proof that we are committed to providing quality health care for the Jamaican people.”

He noted that the approximately 900 drugs covered on the VEN list, far exceed the World Health Organization (WHO) essential list of pharmaceuticals, which contains just over 200 items. The figure is also an increase over the 700 items in 2008, moving from a base of over 300 pharmaceuticals in 2004. In addition, the $3.3 billion far exceeds the approximately $400 million spent some 10 years ago, he stated.

Chairman, Board of Management, NHF, Sterling Soares, informed that in the coming months, the agency will be upgrading its warehouse and inventory management system, as well as the delivery of pharmacy services in its hospitals and selected health centres.

This, he said, is in an effort to ensure that it continues to provide efficient service, of an international standard.

He noted that medicines are a very important part of healthcare and in some cases, the use of prescription medicines prevents persons from requiring other expensive health care such as being hospitalised or having surgery.

Mr. Soares remarked that the international competitive tendering process for pharmaceutical and medical supplies for the public hospital and health centres island-wide is neither an easy process, nor an easy bill to pay. “But it is the obligation of the government of Jamaica to provide these items on the VEN drugs list,” he stated.

The Pharmaceutical Tender was advertised on April 24, 2011 and April 27, 2011 in both The Gleaner and The Observer. Tender Notices were also sent to all suppliers on the NHF’s mailing list as well as to the locally represented embassies prior to the publication of the ‘Invitation to Bid’.

Jamaica has a comprehensive healthcare system with over 300 health centres and 24 hospitals.