Dr. Christopher Tufton and Dr. Ernestine Watson, President of the Pharmaceutical Society of Jamaica
Health Minister Dr. Christopher Tufton has said his ministry is still planning to obtain supplies of Remdesivir for the treatment of COVID-19 infections, despite a World Health Organization (WHO) study which shows that the anti-viral drug has little to no effect on patients' chances of survival.
Dr. Tufton told Radio Jamaica News that the ministry has taken note of the WHO's findings. However, he said other studies have different conclusions.
Dr. Tufton said the health ministry is awaiting the publication of the WHO review.
"We will seek clarity from the WHO and those conclusions. There are other studies that have suggested otherwise, and again, it's just part of the complications of another virus where the world is seeking a quick solution, which is why we had said in the first instance we have to be cautious even though many were calling for the use of the drug. And even in allowing it, it has to go through a process, which is what we have done and there are processes in administering it. So as of now, we're still proceeding, but we're going to seek some clarity from WHO on this particular study, and at that stage if we need to update the advisory to those who may be interested then we will certainly do so," he revealed.
Dr. Tufton said he will also seek guidance from local health experts on the procurement of Remdesivir.
"You're gonna get a lot of different comments from different persons, and we have a group of experts if they advise otherwise, then we'll follow what they're advising. But right now, as I said before, based on all that has been said, there gonna proceed to as we had agreed, unless the expert committee that we have chooses to recommend otherwise."
Remdevisir is administered to patients with low oxygen levels.
On Wednesday, the Ministry of Health said it would procure supplies of the drug through the National Health Fund for use in public facilities.
The decision followed an appeal from the Pharmaceutical Society of Jamaica for hospitals to have a regular supply of the drug.
Pharmaceutical Society defends call
The Pharmaceutical Society of Jamaica, in the meantime, has defended its call for local hospitals to have a regular supply of Remdesivir.
The organisation's president, Dr. Ernestine Watson, responded to the WHO's statement on the drug in an interview with Radio Jamaica News Friday afternoon, noting that while the finding presents "a different scenario...whether or not the clinicians will continue to prescribe the drug, that would be for the clinician (to decide)."
She said the group's initial position and why it called for the procurement of the drug was that "if the drug was being prescribed then it should have been made available to the patient within a time limit so that it could at least have some effect."