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NHF issues $27b pharma drug contracts

Contracts valued at $27 billion were awarded to 34 companies in the pharmaceuticals sector on Tuesday by the National Health Fund, NHF, with Minister of Health Dr Christopher Tufton noting that the supplies were intended for both the preventative and curative aspects of non-communicable diseases.

Spanning from 2023 to 2026, the pharmaceutical contracts, handed out at Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in New Kingston cover the procurement of supplies for hospitals, health centres, and NHF’s national network of Drug Serv pharmacies.

Lasco Distributors, Cari-Med and Facey Commodity scored the biggest contracts.

Tufton said the aim is to maintain drug availability above the average 92 per cent mark. The items to be supplied are those on the Ministry of Health and Wellness’ list of VEN, or vital, essential and necessary, drugs.

In total, 61 contracts covering more than 1,800 drugs were issued to the 34 suppliers. The top seven were: Lasco Distributors Limited, with six contracts valued at $3.86 billion; Cari-Med Group, with seven contracts covering 155 items valued at $3.69 billion; Facey Commodity Limited, six contracts covering 74 items valued at $3.526 billion; Ethnor Del Isto SA, one contract for 22 items, $2,31 billion; Massy Distribution Limited, seven contracts covering 49 items valued at $1.798 billion; TS Pharm Inc, with one contract covering 27 items, $1.63 billion; and T. Geddes Grant, with two contracts covering 103 items valued at $1.23 billion.

Tufton said the contract awardees were “partners in the delivery of quality healthcare for the people of Jamaica and at a time when we grapple with a sick profile characterised by a high prevalence of non-communicable diseases – NCDs, which relies on pharmaceutical interventions.”

There are one in three Jamaicans living with hypertension and one in eight with diabetes, but four of every 10, or 40 per cent of them, were unaware of their status, said the health minister, while also pointing to a growing number of cancer diagnoses.

More than 70 per cent of deaths each year were associated with con-communicable diseases, he added.

The health ministry was therefore on a mission to promote “high efficacy and effectiveness; reliable supply; and timely delivery, as we seek to maintain or otherwise exceed our current performance across our 106 Drug Serv pharmacies islandwide,” he said, noting that the prescriptions fill rate was currently at 92 per cent and the minimum stock level at 85 per cent.

“We cannot rely wholly on curative measures related to prescription drugs as we seek to manage and, indeed, to course correct our NCDs problem,” he added, in stressing the focus on preventative medicine.

The renewed stress on prevention comes amid new analyses of data showing that “a concerning number” of Jamaicans are dying young, associated with NCDs.

“When we analysed the deaths in 2020, for example, we found that 59 per cent, or 12,747, died early, that is, before their 75th birthday,” the health minister reported.

“We do not want to continue in this vein; we need our people to know their numbers, that is, know their health status, and then to come into care to manage or, otherwise, to make the necessary lifestyle changes to prevent illness and death,” he said.

NHF CEO Everton Anderson says the 92 per cent fill rate translates to three million prescriptions being filled annually.

“We wish to surpass the 92 per cent this contract period,” he said.

He added that since the NHF’s full takeover of pharmaceutical management, the fund has spent approximately $80.7 billion on drugs and medical supplies in public-sector pharmacies. NHF was created in 2003.

“These contracts being signed today value $27 billion, covering 1,820 items. This, as we make an effort to do as much as we can to safeguard against shortages. In fact, that figure is set to increase to over $30 billion, as further contracts will be awarded,” he said.

Acting NHF Board Chairman Shane Dalling commented that the absence of accessible medication “can cast a shadow over Jamaica’s Human Development Index”, while urging the contracted suppliers to focus on enhanced supply chain resilience; favourable pricing and terms; and research and development cooperation.

“The NHF welcomes partnerships that foster research and development in healthcare solutions. By collaborating, we can collectively advance medical knowledge, which in turn will improve our healthcare sector,” Dalling said.

The contracts awarded on Tuesday were tendered last August.

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