Falling standards at pharmacies | Daily FT

From the mushrooming of drugstores (pharmacies) we can assume that medicine is good business and perhaps an easy business to enter. In the Colombo 5 area where I live, nearly every other shop is a pharmacy, perhaps encouraged by the many private hospitals which have come up in the area.

These pandemic days their importance has only increased, especially because many of the so-called pharmacies are also doing the business of a general store, selling many retail items including drinks and food. Near Isipathana College, Colombo 5 there is a small pharmacy which is thriving mainly because of the food items they sell. It is popular with the residents who can source their food (frozen stuff mainly) from there despite the curfew enforced general closure of shops. In that tiny shop space, they also have facilities for banking activity, ATMs for the payment of utility bills. Adding to its unwholesomeness is the fact that its neighbour is a liquor store, catering to the rough and ready men of the area.

My question is, what minimum standards do we expect from pharmacies which after all are providing medical services and as such their hygiene and professionalism are vital considerations. By this I mean they must be manned by persons qualified to handle the sale of medicine, properly trained, appropriately dressed.

Is there no regulatory body supervising the pharmacies of this country? 

Now at institutions like the Healthguard there are other items for sale. But Healthguard adheres to high standards, their shops are large, the items on sale are kept clean and separate. I have no problems with such institutions which actually provide good and professional services.

However, I cannot say the same of this little so-called pharmacy near the Isipathana College; it is crowded, unclean and chaotic. The staff at this pharmacy are mainly young boys and girls who clearly have no idea of the service they are said to provide. 

The other day I dropped by at this pharmacy to buy some medicine and to my horror saw a young girl trimming the hair of another employee. They were both behind the counter. That such personal and intimate grooming is carried out amidst all that stocked medicine and food was repulsive to witness. It was clear that these just-in-their-teens employees had no concept that they were violating principles of medical services.

Must we wait until a disaster strikes to put these things in order?

R. Perera