Pharmacy owners say proposals would threaten businesses

PUBLISHED : Monday, 26 October, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 26 October, 2009, 12:00am

Pharmacy owners say their businesses would be endangered if a proposed plan to require them to have a registered pharmacist on-site when they were open was implemented.

A government special review committee proposed a plan to improve drug safety by imposing tougher requirements on manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers, importers and exporters.

Part of the plan would require all pharmacies to have a registered pharmacist present whenever the business was open. At present, pharmacists are required to be present two-thirds of the opening time.

Pharmacists' salaries depended on where and how long they work, but an average pharmacist who worked eight hours a day made HK$30,000 a month, said Lau Oi-kwok, chairman of the General Chamber of Pharmacy.

He also said there were more than 500 pharmacies in the city.

A shopkeeper who works for Skylark Dispensary in Wan Chai said the plan would be a severe blow to business because the dispensary would have to pay almost double to the pharmacist, whose was currently making HK$50,000.

'It would definitely be the end of our business,' he said. 'So would it to most pharmacies in the city.'

The boss of Wang Po Dispensary in Causeway Bay said there was no reason to make a change because customers knew when to visit the dispensary to meet the pharmacist.

Lau, however, said he supported the plan.

'Although it's possible that consumers will share the burden of the extra cost, it will be worth it because some pharmacies do mess about and fiddle with rules,' he said. 'It will also be worthwhile because pharmacists are always present at all pharmacies in most other countries. It's about time we were abreast of them.'

The plan would probably be implemented early next year, and another four to five years would be needed until there were enough pharmacists in Hong Kong to fill the workplaces, he said.

The plan would also compel retailers to have a licence for the sale of so-called non-poisons, such as vitamin pills and the common painkiller Panadol, a brand of paracetamol.

Shops and doctors would also have to keep written records of drug orders so authorities can find out what went wrong in the event of a blunder.

The drug review committee - comprising pharmacists, members of the medical profession, patients' groups and the Consumer Council - was formed in March after a series of incidents involving drugs.

While details still need to be worked out, a key recommendation is to upgrade drug-making standards based on technical guidelines issued by the World Health Organisation in 1995 to the so-called PIC/S standard.

The standard is regarded as one of the strictest in the world.