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February 9, 2021 | Hopeton O’Connor-Dennie |

Why MOH Has Knee On pharmacists’ Neck?

Certified Jamaican Pharmacists who are as qualified as or in many instances better qualified than their counterparts elsewhere in the world are not being accorded equal respect in Jamaica. Why?  This cannot be explained.  Is it the typical case of a king or queen is without honor in their own country?  It sounds strange but it is true.  They have similar qualifications and are recognized internationally as the true experts as it relates to the composition and use of drugs, yet in Jamaica the Ministry of Health has been seeing them differently and treating them as if second class drug practitioners.  It has been reported that the Chief Medical Officer Dr. Besesa McKenzie, is among the MOH officials with this backward thinking.  You could easily liken MOH’s conduct to that which was meted out to George Floyd. Government/MOH Pressing on Pharmacists’ neck.

Is this about to Change?

A resolution has been laid on the table of the Jamaican Parliament asking Parliamentarians to make this change legal.  The resolution is expected to be debated on Tuesday February 9, 2021.  Time come for this long overdue legislative change to be effected. The Resolution said in part that:

“In all 50 states of the USA and in other G7 countries like Canada, UK, and elsewhere, pharmacists are in the forefront of the distribution and application of Vaccines to their respective populations.”

These are media reports of the success in Cayman Islands recently as an example in our region.

Dr. Winsome Christie, president of the Pharmaceutical Society Of Jamaica (PSJ) has been in the forefront of the fight to change this law in Jamaica on behalf of her colleague pharmacy practitioners.

“I do not want it to be for a select or elite group in the Pharmacy profession we are all qualified to dispense drugs by law”

Dr. Winsome Christie, president of the PSJ. She owns & operates a pharmacy in May Pen, Clarendon, Jamaica W. I. (Captured by Hopeton O’Connor-Dennie)

Dr. Winsome Christie has stated in an exclusive interview with the undersigned.  Her passion and drive to make a difference in this regard is remarkable. You can hear the sincerity of her motives in her voice. A true ambassador for and behalf of her members in the Pharmacy profession.

Tufton’s Comments

Dr. Christopher Tufton’s comments recently to his Parliamentarians is most instructive. He was on the record  as saying inter alia:

“The government is committed to a public private partnership as it relates to the distribution of vaccine services nationally. It is free to the public in Public Health facilities.  It is my hope that it will be at a reasonable cost privately to the Jamaican public”.

This commitment cannot be any clearer.  Will this bias be dropped when the Law or Regulations are changed?  We hope so. Reacting to the prospect of this change the PSJ president appears to be cautiously optimistic.

“We look forward to this change”

Dr. Christie is quoted as simply saying. Opting not to raise hopes too high.

Brief History

The pharmacy profession in Jamaica is as old as any other profession. In the dark days they were called “Docs”.  Also formerly referred to as “druggist” and the shops as “Drug Stores.” Today we refer to them as “Pharmacies” and “Pharmacists” as the person who dispenses the drugs or fills the prescription.  Quite a transformation, you will agree.  There are others too like improved qualifications.  Formerly you may be attached to the hospital and you learn the drug types. Today there are formal courses.  All pharmacist today have at least a first degree in pharmacy and even leading up to a doctorate in pharmacology. There is a well staffed faculty at the University of Technology (UTECH) formerly Formerly the College of Arts Science & Technology (CAST) that issued certificates. Today a minimum of a first degree is issued. Then there is the Pharmacy Technician who should not be confused or be seen as a fully qualified pharmacist. Their training is less extensive. Also they cannot or are not legally allowed to dispense on their own. They are assistants to a fully fledged or qualified pharmacist by law. We know there are violations.

Manufacturer Of Drugs

Any entity that manufactures drugs for examples Benjamin and  Federated Pharmaceuticals to name a few, must have a qualified pharmacist attached to their enterprise by law,  in say Jamaica. It is likely the same requirement internationally. The pharmacist is the only true authority on drugs.

Able To Prescribe.

Later on the pharmacist will be able to dispense drugs on their own as the physician does. To be factual they already do, but in a limited way.  I really mean fully and independently.  In some countries they do. The pharmacist is the legal authority on drug use and in most cases are consulted on by doctors as to which drug and its alternatives to prescribe to patients. The training of a pharmacists is very extensive.


We need all hands on deck especially those duly qualified to help stem the coronavirus.  Pharmacists are duly qualified to assist in the speedy and efficient distribution of the vaccine. This is an idea whose time has come and is pregnant for delivery to get our economy back on track especially in the area of tourism.  This will also instill greater confidence in foreign governments. Among them Canada which have closed their borders or restricted entry to Mexico, Jamaicans and the Caribbean region to curtail the spread of the Coronavirus onto their chores.

We hope the government will wise up before it is too late, as delay is danger.

Hopeton O’Connor-Dennie is a veteran journalist who has  international exposure. His daughter is a qualified pharmacist and PhD candidate pursuing her doctorate in Pharmacy.

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