…disputes other prices
The government yesterday admitted buying the anti-fungal Ketoconazole cream for a price even higher than the cost cited by Kaieteur News.
Health Minister Dr Bheri Ramsaran suggested that the government has no control over the prices it pays.
According to Dr Ramsaran, once the tender process is followed and the most suitable bidder is recommended by the National Procurement and Tender Board Administration, that is what the government goes by.
With the government not knowing how much drugs it needs, millions of dollars in drugs end up passing the expiry date and have to be dumped. The Health Minister yesterday said that he did not know what quantity of expired drugs is being dumped.
While millions of dollars go down the drain, the government continues to procure drugs at prices that are way above the actual price the drugs could be had for on the market.
Dr Ramsaran said that this would change when the government moves to its new warehouse being established at Diamond. He described this warehouse as state of the art.
During the transition of the period between Farm and Diamond, Dr Ramsaran said that there would be an inventory of the drugs in the system. This inventory would be computerized.
This newspaper reported on Sunday, that the government is buying the Ketoconazole cream at a cost of $1,909 per tube when the same cream is being retailed in India, inclusive of taxes, for as little as $80.
Yesterday, Health Minister Dr Bheri Ramsaran said that the actual price the government pays is $1,990. The cream is used to treat jock itch, dandruff, and athlete’s foot,
The government buys from the New Guyana Pharmaceutical Corporation (New GPC) and then distributes it to public hospitals and health centres.
Of the Ketoconazole creams being produced by companies in India, Kaieteur News found that the government is buying the cheapest one at a price that is almost 25 times the Indian retail price.
Despite this, Ramsaran conducted his own probe and was satisfied that nothing was amiss with the purchases. He indicated that there was no independent verification of the prices for the items purchased, saying that once the tender process is followed, the government goes with whatever the Tender Board recommends.
The New GPC is the government’s largest supplier of pharmaceuticals. This company, Atlantic Pharmaceuticals, the Guyana Times and several other companies, are owned by Dr. Ranjisinghi Ramroop, the best friend of former President Bharrat Jagdeo.
Yesterday, Dr Ramsaran could not say how much money was paid over to the New GPC last year.
While not disputing the cost of the Ketoconazole cream, Dr Ramsaran disputed the pricing of some other items cited by Kaieteur News and procured by New GPC for the Ministry of Health.
This newspaper reported that the Georgetown Hospital buys a syringe for $8,000 when it could be bought for $600. Dr Ramsaran said his records show that the pre-syringe product was bought this year for $1,957.
He disputed the cost of aspirins noted by Kaieteur News. Ramsaran said that a 1,000 package of aspirins (300 milligrams) was bought for $485 last year and for $468 this year. This newspaper had put the cost at $2,700.
In addition, the Health Minister said that Atenolol was bought for $1,165 last year and $1,461 this year. Kaieteur News had put the price the government pays at $18,000.
Kaieteur News, through its New York agent, was able to secure quotations for a bottle containing the same 1,000 Atenolol tablets for as low as $2,000.
Local pharmacies are retailing it on average of $6-$10 each.
In a statement Tuesday, the New GPC stayed away from the prices it sells pharmaceuticals and medical supplies to the government for.
The company called on the Auditor General’s office to carry out a Value for Money Audit to review the prequalification process that was conducted in 2010 beginning with the advertisement for Expression of Interest, to the evaluation and subsequent approval of submissions for prequalification to supply pharmaceuticals and medical supplies to GPHC.
The company said it is calling on the Auditor General to carry out the audit to determine if GPHC is receiving value for money based on the criteria and other established benchmarks as set out in the prequalification process, “to set the record straight and let the general public be aware of the facts”.
Dr Ramsaran said that he has already been meeting with the Auditor General.
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