This summer, I spent 2 weeks volunteering at the Hôpital Bon Samaritain in Limbé, Haiti. I usually ship ahead boxes of supplies to Haiti, prior to my visit, and I also carry 2 heavily laden suitcases with me. As usual, I flew into Cap Haïtien, the largest northern city in Haiti.
My focus this year was to help the pharmacy continue producing its own topical prescription medications. The benefits of having the hospital pharmacy self- produce its own meds are 2 fold: 1- improved availability of topical meds, as it may be difficult for the hospital to have a ready supply of certain meds, 2- cost, usually, it is more cost effective to produce certain topical medications. I began this task last summer, and expanded the number of topical meds this year. By the end of my visit, 2 new topical medications were listed on the hospital formulary. A 5% Salicylic acid solution for acne and Whitfield’s ointment, for fungal infections, eczema and even psoriasis.
This latter topical medication is named after Arthur Whitfield. He was a British dermatologist and professor of dermatology in London, England. In 1907 he published a handbook of skin diseases and their treatment. The handbook introduced an antiseptic ointment used for the topical treatment of fungal skin infections. Whitfield’s ointment consists of Salicylic acid and Benzoic acid. It has been found to be as effective as topical clotrimazole and is much less expensive. More than a century later, Whitfield’s ointment is still being used in developing countries, especially in Africa. When I volunteered in Kenya a few years ago, to help train health care workers to diagnose and treat common tropical dermatological conditions, Whitfield’s ointment was part of the Baraka Health clinic formulary.
Gentian Violet 0.5% solution for bacterial and viral skin infections, and Hydrocortisone 1% ointment were already on the Hôpital Bon Samaritain formulary, but at times, these meds were not available for purchase by the hospital, so the physicians could not prescribe them. Now, the pharmacy is able to produce these meds as needed.I also introduced an old time treatment, Sodium Thiosulfate for tinea versicolor, a common fungal infection seen in hot humid climates.
One Saturday, we went into the town of Limbé, to see the local market and this young child was with his mother, at her booth.