Statement On Diabetes Care Insulin Issue
By Dr. Terrance Drew
(Dated: Friday 5th October 2018)
My name is Dr. Terrance Drew and I am a Cuban-educated, licensed medical practitioner and US-trained specialist in Internal Medicine. I am also the St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party’s candidate and caretaker representative for St. Christopher # 8.
While speaking on the most recent edition of the popular call-in programme, ‘Issues’ aired on FREEDOM-FM on Wednesday 3rd October, a caller expressed concern that she was having whereby she had gone to a government dispensary in Sandy Point to purchase insulin and the insulin that was available was expired.
As a result, she went to Basseterre and inquired of various local pharmacies and was told that none was available. She was therefore faced with the choice of taking insulin from a vial that she had at home that had expired in September 2018.
The caller was concerned about whether using expired insulin would complicate the symptoms of her diabetes or be ineffective. In response to her query on the radio programme, I expressed my regret that she had to be faced with the choice of using expired insulin. I asked the lady whether she had inquired of all of the pharmacies including the pharmacies in Nevis. I then asked the caller to leave her number with the radio station and told her that I would inquire with the pharmacy in Nevis and get in touch with her. As a concerned medical practitioner I also called on the Ministry of health to investigate the claim.
At no time was the issue ever politicised. It was therefore to my shock and dismay that references to this incident were made during the Prime Minister’s monthly press conference, held on Thursday, October 4, 2018, during which the Junior Minister for Health, the Honourable Wendy Phipps, called into question my professionalism and accused me of “causing harm” to the public in violation of my oath of as doctor.
Minister Phipps has been known in the past to be dishonest in her reporting on matters related to public health.
Some examples of this are:
1. She concealed the report of the United States-based National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) on the Basseterre High School.
2. She also sought to mislead the public by denying the existence of an illegal and unethical stem cell experiment by calling it “Regenerative Medicine” when they are one of the same.
3. She sought to sully the reputation of the nursing profession by calling JNF nurses “thieves”.
Minister Phipps’ statements are therefore unfortunate and regrettable in that her attack on my professionalism directly implies that the elderly caller completely fabricated her account of her experience. The caller has been completely vilified in Minister Phipps’ public statements and has been accused of deliberately misleading the public and causing hysteria.
It is my understanding that to date, there has not been any attempt made by any official at the Ministry of Health to contact the diabetic patient to hear her concerns. This speaks to the uncaring nature of Minister Phipps and Minister Hamilton, and is indicativeof the failed leadership of the Ministry of Health.
After the radio programme ended, I was able to speak to the caller and to view for myself the expired vial of insulin which she had bought. The expiry date indicated on the label was September 2018.
An expiry date is intended as a guide. To the seller, it means do not sell. To the buyer and user, it means you should not use.
That being said, it does not mean that the medicine cannot be used one day or month after the expiration date. It simply means that the manufacturer is not liable for any ill effects of the medication’s use after that particular date.
In the likelihood that these incidents are indeed occurring, my advice to the good people of St. Kitts and Nevis is as follows:
1. Never purchase food or medication that has expired or is close to expiring.
2. If you are already using medication that has expired or is close to expiring, contact your nurse, pharmacist or doctor for advice.
3. If you have a grievance or concern about medication that has been dispensed by public or private facilities or about their quality of service, register your concern with the Ministry of Health by officially writing a letter of complaint to the Chief Medical Officer and the Permanent Secretary.
4. Persons needing credible information about expiry dates can Google the United Kingdom National Health Service website.
Dr. Terrance Drew