Chemists call for law review to stop illegal sales

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 14 February, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 14 February, 2006, 12:00am

Pharmacists have urged the government to review outdated laws to strengthen their professional status and to crack down on illegal drug sales by shopkeepers.

William Chui Chun-ming, education director of the Society of Hospital Pharmacists, said that in many countries such as the United States, Britain and Canada, community pharmacies must be owned by professional pharmacists. No such requirement exists in Hong Kong.

'In Hong Kong, anyone who has money can run a pharmacy and he or she does not have any professional responsibility over the sale of medicine. Pharmacists are only employees, they can do little to change the shopkeepers' malpractice,' Mr Chui said.

About 1,500 registered pharmacists operate in Hong Kong, of whom about 1,100 are practising. Of the 480 community pharmacies in the city, about 300 are independent stores. The remainder are chain stores.

Mr Chui said community pharmacists were usually 'invisible' from the counters because they did not want to be associated with illegal practices. In the long term, separating medical practice from drug dispensing will help track antibiotic use in the community, he said.

'If Hong Kong follows other countries where patients must get medicine from community pharmacists, it will be easier for health authorities to audit doctors' prescriptions and the use of different types of medicine,' he said.

Community pharmacists could help prevent drug resistance problems by giving advice to patients, said Billy Chung Wing-ming, president of the Practising Pharmacists Association.

The 450-member association is discussing a strengthening of the community pharmacists' role in drug education with the Centre for Health Protection.

Mr Chung agreed that laws should be reviewed to give pharmacists more control over drug dispensing, but he said: 'Public confidence in the trade is not strong.'