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20% of pharmacies sell regulated drugs without prescription
By Muhammad Dawoud, Saleh Al-Olaiyani and Abdulmuhsin Al-Harthi
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 04 - 10 - 2011

An alarming 20 percent of pharmacists will supply regulated drugs to a customer without a prescription if he is a personal acquaintance, an Okaz/Saudi Gazette investigation report shows.
Most of these drugs are to enhance sexual performance, which some pharmacists insist are “not as risky as medications for psychological sicknesses and cancer”. The report also found that pharmacies often sell antibiotics to customers after briefly listening to their complaint.
Selling drugs without prescription is risky and pharmacists must abide by an over-the-counter medications guide regulating their sale. However sexual and psychological-related drugs, cancer medications and antibiotics can only be sold after looking at a prescription from a recognized medical practitioner.
Dr. Ridha Mahmoud Matbouli, urology consultant at Jeddah's King Abdulaziz University Hospital,
says that it is not just some pharmacists who are at fault. “There's the patient himself who after listening to a friend's advice does not want to consult a doctor but prefers privacy when buying aphrodisiac drugs.”
This puts customers at a major risk because important factors are not taken into account which may affect the drug and more importantly the customer's health. Before prescribing any new medicine, a doctor must take into account various factors such as the patient's medical history or whether he is currently taking any other medicines.
“If the patient suffers from diabetes, high blood pressure, heart problems or other conditions, some medicines may prove harmful,” Matbouli said.
In pharmacies in the Eastern Province, an Okaz/Saudi Gazette reporter pretending to be a patient, failed to obtain the drugs he asked for without prescription. Some pharmacies sold him drugs for mild diseases like the flu. But most followed the healthcare regulations, knowing the risks involved and the possibility of being stripped of their licenses.
In Riyadh, pharmacists in general were very strict and would not sell sexual-related drugs without a prescription, but some sold antibiotics after inquiring about the patients' symptoms.
Dr. Sami Badawood, Director of Jeddah Health Affairs, called on all pharmacies to sell certain over-the-counter drugs permitted in an official guide.
“There are teams who inspect pharmacies for violations. If a violation of that kind is found the pharmacist will be investigated and the pharmacy closed, and a fine reaching SR100,000 could be imposed,” he warned. __


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