x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Pharmacy checks in Abu Dhabi must be ongoing

Pushing pharmacies in Abu Dhabi to comply with safety rules will go a long way in protecting public health.

Products as volatile as medicines must be properly stored, sold and administered. Bad advice in the pharmacy can have dangerous, even deadly consequences. Which is why a recent inspection programme of the emirate's chemists by Health Authority-Abu Dhabi is so welcome, if long overdue.

As The National reported this week, there are a staggering number of neighbourhood pharmacies that simply don't make the grade when it comes to cleanliness, professionalism and attention to safety. During spot inspections last year, one-sixth of the 514 registered chemists failed an 80-point checklist that monitors in-patient, outpatient and drugstore infractions. Infractions included selling counterfeit drugs, dispensing banned or illegal products, poor store conditions and abysmal customer service.

At the moment, health officials are keeping the worst offenders under close supervision, giving these outlets time to improve. Pharmacies that continue to underperform will be named and shamed.

Medicine must be treated differently from any other consumer product. As such, measures to raise standards of the capital's medical dispensaries are appropriate and welcome. And yet, inspections are only a piece of the challenge.

It is important, for example, to ensure that drug stores have qualified pharmacists, as their advice is often sought by the consumer on a range of topics including cheaper alternatives to prescription drugs, dosage and possible drug interactions. Pharmacies that fail to comply with rules meant to protect the public must be dealt with harshly.

Unfortunately, the most recent round of failings is something of a trend. In 2011, a quarter of all pharmacies inspected in the capital were given the lowest grade. Then, about 650 stores were warned over violations, ranging from selling out-of-date drugs to not having a licensed pharmacist. Two years later, it's a similar story.

Consumers have a right to expect safe, quality medication from well-regulated pharmacies. As Abu Dhabi has done with regulating corner shops, perhaps it's time to force those in the business of dispensing medicines to shape up or close permanently. Ensuring that these establishments comply with health and safety rules will go a long way towards ensuring the safety of Abu Dhabi's health care industry.