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.