x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Beware the panacea

Abu Dhabi health authority plans to make ranking of the capital¿s pharmacies available to the public. But, however decent, they are no substitute for professional attention.

According to the Health Authority-Abu Dhabi (Haad), less than 6 per cent of pharmacies inspected in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain last year received an "excellent" rating. This will come as a shock to those who assume that local pharmacies provide the panacea for their ills.

As The National reports today, Haad plans to make ranking of the capital's pharmacies available to the public. The outlets are judged on criteria like storage facilities, competence of staff and ease of obtaining prescription medication.

To be sure, most pharmacies provide decent services. In many cases, however, they are no substitute for professional attention.

Anecdotally, we know that people increasingly take to the internet - and the local pharmacy - to investigate even the smallest of symptoms. With a dose of paranoia, even a common cold can be mistaken for something far more serious.

But most pharmacists are not in a position to diagnose and recommend medication; they don't know patients' histories, and make judgements based on sight alone.

Just as we hope the new standards improve pharmacies' service, so too should people understand the limits of that service.