Having undergone life-saving kidney transplant surgeries, close to three dozen patients have been attending post-transplant care and support clinic at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation [GPHC].
At these clinics patients are examined to ensure that they are progressing well. They are also furnished with needful medication, including one to ensure that their transplanted kidney is not rejected by their bodies. This medication is called Mycophenolate – which is simply referred to as an immunosuppressant drug which decreases the body’s natural immune response to a foreign substance, that is, the new kidney.
But some of the post-transplant patients are beginning to worry that their new organs could begin to fail, since they have been receiving word that the GPHC has exhausted its supply of Mycophenolate and has failed to replenish same. According to multiple patients who claimed to be affected by this development, they have been desperately trying to get with key health officials to address the dilemma quickly.
When contacted for a comment on this daunting development, senior hospital officials said this state of affairs was not brought to their attention.
“We never got any complaints to this effect,” one official insisted. But the patients are claiming to have evidence to suggest otherwise.
“We have already taken this concern and others to multiple levels already, including the CEO, who we wrote to through our doctor [Dr. Kishore Persaud, the transplant surgeon] and he said he would get them sorted out. Recently we even took our concerns to the Ministry [of Public Health] and followed up with it as well, and nothing seems to be coming of it,” said Henry Brandon, one of the affected transplant patients.
He disclosed that although the problem was sorted out for a while, the shortage situation resumed shortly after.
But according to Brandon, this is not the first time that post-transplant patients have been faced with this predicament.
“I remember last year alone, two times we didn’t have this medication, and those who had extra had to share with the others until we got access to it again,” the patient recalled. He is however concerned that on this occasion the drug shortage appears to be especially dire.
This is in light of Brandon’s disclosure that “this time around nobody seems sure as to when they’re going to get again. One of the things we were told is that the Food and Drug Administration is having problems with the supplier. We have been sharing around our tablets… some people have for two weeks and one month at the most.”
The patients claim to have knowledge that the importation of the drug is linked to an order from the Government Analyst Food and Drug Department.
When questioned if this is indeed the case, Food and Drug Director, Mr. Marlan Cole, was not in a position to comment on this particular case. He however shared that in the past, his organisation has had cause to restrict some drugs imported for use at the GPHC, since they were not registered. He noted, too, that once a credible complaint reaches the Food and Drug Department, it is customary that an investigation is conducted and the necessary action[s] taken.
Meanwhile, the patients continue to agonise over their plight.
“If we go a day or two without this drug, we could lose our kidney…our bodies could reject the kidney and we could be back in hospital again…that is the importance of that drug,” said Richard Manpersaud, another post-transplant patient.
“We are tired of people giving us comforting words; we need them to help us by sourcing the drugs for us,” added Manpersaud, who continued by revealing that “even if we wanted to source it for ourselves, we can’t find it nowhere in Guyana.”
The drugs the patients believe are imported by a major local importer.
“I really don’t understand how they [the hospital] can have a shortage when they would have a record of how many patients had transplants and how many surgeries are projected for the year…even if they buy more, that wouldn’t be a problem once the expiration date is not near,” stressed Brandon.
Some of the patients are convinced that the shortage is linked to the price being demanded by the importer. This publication understands that the importer in question offers one box of Mycophenolate containing 50 tablets for $50,000. This publication has, however, been able to confirm that the very same product is available at Lisa’s Pharmacy of Gulf View, La Romain, Trinidad and Tobago, for a value equivalent to $18,000.
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