Stiffer penalties for individuals illegally engaging in the practice of pharmacy

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There will soon be an increase in the penalty for any person who is caught engaging in the practice of pharmacy in Antigua and Barbuda and is not registered as a pharmacist here.

The step is being taken by legislators who recently passed the Pharmacy (Amendment) Bill 2019 in the Lower and Upper Houses of Parliament. Now, the Bill only has to be assented to by the Governor General before it becomes law.

Currently, under the Pharmacy Act of 1995, anyone who commits the offence mentioned above can be fined $10,000 or jailed for 12 months. An offender can also be fined and jailed.

The proposed law will increase the penalty to a fine of $20,000 or two years’ imprisonment, or to both such fine and imprisonment.

Leader of government business in the Senate, Senator Mary-Claire Hurst said, “It can be a decision of life and death. It is that serious. No person shall import, export, sell, distribute, compound or have in possession, with intent to distribute or dispense by wholesale or retail, any drugs unless the selling compounded and dispensed by retail is carried out by a registered pharmacist,” she warned.

She added that the Bill would bring general practices in Antigua and Barbuda up to par with regional and international standards.

The aim of the changes is “to increase the level of accountability, very important, accountability for the owners and the operators of pharmacies and wholesale pharmaceutical businesses and to establish minimum standards for the labeling of pharmaceuticals and poisons and for the layout of a dispensary,” Hurst explained.

There will also be new rules for licencing premises to operate a pharmacy.

“Where the premises to be licensed as a pharmacy or wholesale pharmaceutical business is also used for any other business activity, the pharmacy or the wholesale pharmaceutical business shall have a specified name and have a business registration certificate. So, in other words, if you go into a convenience story and you have your pharmacy at the back, you have to make sure that … it is separate and distinct from the other areas,” Senator Hurst elaborated.

Meanwhile, Section 14 of the 1995 Pharmacy Act is also to be amended, with stiffer penalties coming on stream for any business engaging in the practice of pharmacy without a licence.

Right now, the penalty is a fine of $2,000 or the operator can be jailed for six months. The current law also allows for the operator to be fined and jailed.

The pending new law will increase the fine to $4,000 or imprisonment for 12 months, or both a fine and jail time.  Senator Hurst said strengthening the regulation of the industry is important to safeguard the health and safety of residents.

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