All pharmacies are inspected by department
I refer to the letter by Dr Archie Lo Ying-sui headlined 'Pharmacies flouting rules and putting patients at risk' (Sunday Morning Post, February 16).
Pharmacies in Hong Kong are required to hold a licence issued by the Pharmacy and Poisons Board, a statutory body established under the Pharmacy and Poisons Ordinance. The board will only issue a licence to applicants who have adequate experience, knowledge and a good track record related to the sale of medicines.
They are also required to comply with the various aspects of the law related to their operation, including the employment of a registered pharmacist to be in charge of the sale of controlled medicines and the sale of prescription-only medicines only on the prescription of a registered doctor, dentist or veterinary surgeon.
The board also monitors the practice of pharmacies to ensure their compliance with the law. Department of Health pharmacist inspectors conduct regular and surprise inspections at pharmacies to ensure that the laws regulating the sale, storage and record-keeping of the various types of medicines are complied with. More inspections are conducted at those pharmacies with a less-than-satisfactory record of law compliance.
On average, each pharmacy in Hong Kong is inspected more than twice a year. In addition to inspections, test purchases are made to detect any incidents of sale of prescription-only medicines without a prescription.
Such a sale is an offence under the Pharmacy and Poisons Ordinance with a maximum penalty, upon conviction, of $100,000 and two years' imprisonment. Each year, more than 3,000 test purchases are conducted and more than 30 pharmacies are convicted.
Convicted pharmacies are also subject to further disciplinary actions of the Pharmacy and Poisons Board which may include suspension of the pharmacy licence for a period of time.
Some pharmacies are not in full compliance with the law. Apart from sparing no efforts in the above-mentioned law enforcement activities, the Department of Health also welcomes information from health-care professionals and members of the public on specific incidents related to the illegal sale of prescription-only medicines by pharmacies.
Any information received through the department's telephone hotline (2572 2068) will be treated in confidence and will be followed up immediately.
Department of Health