Many Belizeans suffering from chronic mental disorders like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, depend on medications like risperidone to function normally in society. Risperidone, though not entirely free of side effects, has been proven as a useful medication and is probably the cheapest of the atypical antipsychotics according to the Cayo Consumer Association. In 2004, this medication and others like it, were made available to patients free of cost in all 8 government dispensaries. However, as recently as last month, reports have been coming in that the medications are not available in any of the Government outlets across the country. Triesia Green, President of the Cayo Consumer Association told us more.
Triesia Green – President of the Cayo Consumer Association
” The concern was raised about early march. The concern was because; from December or so, there have been medication that has not been coming into the dispensaries. This has been happening throughout the country. These medication are Olanzapine and Risperidone for the mental health sector, but as I understand, this has for a number of medication across the board; for diabetic patients, patients who are suffering from high blood pressure and other chronic diseases.
According to Triesia Green there was a shortage of supply since December and the Association was told that it is as a result of the ending of the fiscal year. But as recently as early March, stock numbers in Belize fell to zero, says Green, and consumers were alarmed thinking that the Ministry had stopped the supply. We spoke to the Ministry of Health’s Public Relations Officer who told us that they are looking into the matter because as far as they are aware the medications- specifically atropine and respiridone- were still available at some Government dispensaries. But the president of the Cayo Consumers Association is convinced otherwise.
“No. These medication, the Olanzapine and Risperidone, are definitely out in all pharmacies… the government dispensaries thought the country. The medications are truly available at private pharmacies, but that incurs a cost to the consumers, to the mental health user and many of these persons are persons that cannot afford to buy them. This is a commitment, a compliance that the government has offered to the people of Belize, to the patience, that persons who suffer from a chronic illness, such as any mental disorder, will be provided these medication. So we are just pressuring them and reminding them of their commitment to us.”
Today we visited the Government Dispensary in Belmopan at the Western Regional Hospital and were told that they do not have the medication “respiradone” because the suppliers are out and told us to check back next month. However, Ministry of Health Officials told us this evening that the suppliers had informed them that between yesterday and today the medication was being sent to all 8 Government Dispensaries. The Ministry of Health reiterated that they are not stopping supply of this essential medication. Plus news has been reliably informed that at least one gun related incident of recent may be related to a patient’s inability to locate this medication used for schizophrenic treatment, resulting in a violent episode where another person was critically wounded.