Pharmacies flouting drug dispensing rules

February 25, 2011 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, 25 – A new survey now shows that about three quarters of pharmacies in Kenya often dispense antibiotics without a prescription as required.

The study by Synovate has revealed that out of 203 pharmacies surveyed across the country, 73 percent did not ask for a prescription before selling what should be "prescription only" drugs.

Synovate Managing Director George Waititu says using a technique called mystery shopping, the researchers from Synovate called on pharmacies in all eight provinces and sought to buy a specific brand of antibiotic which should normally be sold only on prescription.

"Nine percent of the outlets asked for a prescription and when it was not forthcoming, went ahead and sold the antibiotic anyway. Only 18 per cent of the surveyed pharmacies asked for and then declined to sell the drug when a prescription wasn\’t produced," he said.

Mr Waititu said this easy access is aggravating antibiotic resistance of Kenyans which is in turn contributing to spiralling health costs as the country searches for second line drugs to treat diseases when first line drugs become ineffective.

"Many Kenyans may not be aware that buying these drugs without a prescription is drug abuse," he added.

Mr Waititu said that medical experts say that for certain types of drugs such as antibiotics, antidepressants, and antipsychotics, one must get advice from a qualified medical practitioner before taking them.

More scrutiny, he said, is needed to ensure proper prescription and use of medications.

But pharmacies alone cannot be blamed for incorrect usage.

"Instead, the medical establishment, the Pharmacy and Poisons board which is responsible for drug regulation in Kenya and licenses pharmacies and patients themselves, must share the responsibility," he stressed.

Developing countries, struggling under the burden of bacterial diseases such as tuberculosis, are more in need of antibiotics than ever.

But issues such as proliferation of counterfeit drugs, poor prescribing practices and a lack of regulation or guidelines are fuelling the growth of resistance to these much needed medicines.

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