Friday, July 21, 2006

Street pharmacies

As someone who'd never previously been outside North America, my time in Guinea and Senegal was greeted by many things I'd never seen before. One of the most curious things was the ambulant 'medicine' vendors that flourish in almost every market place. These 'pharmacists' selling drugs of questionable quality and effectiveness. Said one, "The only difference between these places and so-called modern pharmacies is the way the drugs are stored." Of course, the way drugs are stored can have a significant impact on their quality, especially in a place with a hot climate.

Naturally, this state of affairs does not please real pharmacists but there's not much that can be done.

"Medicine is 10 times more expensive in a (legal) pharmacy than at the 'street pharmacy'," explained a worker at the port of Conakry.

National Health Director Maay Barry said most Guineans shunned private practices, where treatment and medicine are too expensive for their purses, and had even turned their back on state hospitals, as patients have to wait for hours and comply with complex administrative formalities.

Though even the trade union representing African phramacists recently denounced the chasm between the average African's purchasing power and the cost of specialized medications.


At 12:04 PM, Blogger Imnakoya said...

These medicine vendors are common sight in West Africa, unlike the U.S and Western Europe where pharmacies are licensed and highly regulated; it's a 'free for all game' in the sub-Sahara Africa.

While it’s all too easy to look down on the 'roadside pharmacist'; their emergence, success and 'acceptance' is a reflection of a broken healthcare system.

One thing is obvious: Drug delivery systems fashioned after western models will not work in many regions of Africa; it is high time the private, public and non-profit sectors came together and fashion out a more appropriate and sustainable model that can will better serve the poor in Africa.

Kudos to Dr Dora Akunyili- the indomitable Nigerian drug enforcer- she has registered huge success in clamping down on the proliferation fake drugs in the sub-region.

At 4:31 AM, Blogger sokari said...

my cousin just told me yesterday of someone who became ill - at some point the doctors discovered it was her "vitamin" capsules - they were filled with omo (washing powder ) and a few other things. She died within weeks.
(sorry in Nigeria)


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