SEPTEMBER 25, 2013

A warm greeting to each one of you and a special welcome to Jamaica to those who are visiting especially for the first time.

This evening has certainly been an inspiring evening, especially after having heard Mr. Sethi speak about the spectacular achievements of CIPLA and how this company plans to make a greater difference in Jamaica.  For this company whose tag-line is “None shall be denied”, their stronger presence in Jamaica means that people from all walks of life will have easier access to quality and affordable health products.  This is what makes tonight so special for Lady Allen and me as we are deeply interested in initiatives which seek to enhance the health and the quality of life of our people.

Let me thank the Hon. Lascelles Chin for having invited me to speak at this Corporate Launch of CIPLA in Jamaica.  However, I believe that after having listened to all this background information on CIPLA and what it has done, I shall resist the temptation to at this stage to simply say “Congratulations and Best wishes, CIPLA” or perhaps, reflecting on an earlier period of my life, pronounce a benediction!   Please indulge me for another five minutes or so.

Through LASCO’s Pharmaceutical Division, as we have heard, Jamaicans have been using CIPLA products for the past twelve years. This LASCO/CIPLA partnership seems to be a natural fit as both companies are committed to providing quality, affordable products and services.

CIPLA had its origins in prescription drugs distribution and LASCO in food products, but both have grown way beyond their early years.  LASCO’s expansion into the pharmaceutical field has relied heavily on its role as the distributor for CIPLA, particularly of drugs for respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, HIV-AIDS and cancer.

I am impressed also by CIPLA’s slogan that “At CIPLA, it’s not only about making medicines; it’s about making a difference.” We have seen how this self-perception has spurred the company to become pioneers in innovation, research and development and the production of life-saving medicines.

What a difference they have made in the lives of millions of HIV/AIDS patients!  They have brought welcome relief to millions of persons affected by respiratory diseases.   And at their Palliative Care and Training Centre in India, many terminally ill cancer patients have been comforted by CIPLA’s “care beyond cure” programme, free of cost.  Clearly, our Doctors and Pharmacists will welcome the enhanced supply of affordable drugs, but they will also welcome the training which CIPLA routinely provides to ensure the optimal use of their products.

Both CIPLA and LASCO understand the importance of effective communication in the doctor and patient relationship and that sometimes, even the simplest medical instruction can be misunderstood.  Take for example this doctor/patient conversation, which I am advised is true:

Patient: It’s been one month since my last visit and I still feel miserable.

Doctor: Did you follow the instructions on the medicine I gave you?

Patient: I sure did – the bottle said ‘keep tightly closed.’

And CIPLA will need all of LASCO’s help for labels which have the correct meaning in this country.  For example, we don’t all interpret in the same way the instruction: “Take one tablet on odd days and skip the next day”. Some patients have been known to lose a lot of weight from the exercise of skipping on that “next day”.  One must always be careful and follow and understand the instructions which are given.

I like the fact that CIPLA/LASCO have demonstrated a strong sense of corporate social responsibility. For most Jamaicans, LASCO’s name is synonymous with various socio-economic development programmes, such as the Schools’ Challenge Quiz, the Children’s Own Spelling Bee and the Police, Nurse and Teacher of the Year Programmes et. al.  LASCO, I should mention, is also a solid supporter of my youth and community outreach programme: the “I Believe” Initiative.  I thank the Hon. Las Chin for believing with me that There is nothing wrong with Jamaica that cannot be fixed by what is right with Jamaica!

Among those things that are right with Jamaica is the innovative spirit which has resulted in pioneering work in agricultural sciences, health and medicinal sciences, among others.  There has long been research ongoing in the search for cancer cures, by persons such as Dr. the Hon. Henry Lowe and Dr. Lawrence Williams to use local indigenous plants to fight cancer and inhibit diseases associated with ageing.

We do not forget the ground-breaking work of Drs. Manley West and Albert Lockhart whose research in cannabis pharmacology, marijuana medicine, resulted in Canasol for glaucoma in 1983 and Asmasol in the 1990s. They knew, as CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta who recently admitted, that there’s a lot more cure to be found in marijuana.  Dr. Sylvia Mitchell has compiled UWI’s research on medicinal plants in Jamaica which proves that our country is fertile ground for bioactive plants which can bring great economic gain to us.

There is abundant use of folk remedies, especially in the rural areas. Such use is largely based on oral tradition, without recognition of the potential for toxic side effects.  We have proven that we have the brains to identify and isolate the medicinal properties of these plants.  What we lack are the financial resources to take the process through to international certification for global marketing.  There is also the risk of our scientists losing their intellectual property rights, or finding their progress blocked by huge external companies, but that should not daunt our efforts.  We can learn much from CIPLA as our scientists strive to break that glass ceiling.

This partnership, the CIPLA/LASCO partnership, has the potential to progress well beyond the distribution of more affordable drugs.  I would like to see CIPLA collaborate with our scientists to promote medicinal research, innovation and development in Jamaica, using our endemic plants and folk remedies to produce new or improved prescription drugs and neutraceuticals.

I must add, though, that Jamaicans have to guard against becoming dependent on prescription drugs for improving their health.  It would be remise of me if I did not say that the best “wonder-drug” for a healthy lifestyle is NEWSTART – the acronym for:

  • Nutrition
  • Exercise
  • Water
  • Sunlight
  • Temperance
  • Air
  • Rest
  • Trust in God (stress free)

The increased prevalence of lifestyle diseases, especially linked with obesity even among children, demands that we pay much more attention to public education and primary health care.  We must change the culture which makes cardio-vascular diseases the second leading cause of death in Jamaica.  Certainly, thanks to the tremendous strides in medicine people are living longer.  This gives them the extra time needed to pay their medical bills.

In closing, let me remind us all that a miracle drug is one that has the same price now as it had last year.  Please join me in extending our very best wishes for CIPLA’s success in Jamaica and in the rest of our region!

Thank you.