Who Supervises the Widely-Spread Drug Stores? [Archives:2000/35/Business & Economy]

August 28 2000

Drug stores have spread all over the Yemeni cities in an eye-catcher manner leaving behind a lot of queries on part of the Yemeni public opinion.
Such being the case the standard of health has dropped. This rife spread of drug stores has ended confidence in medicines trade. Today, medical treatment has become a merchandise rather than a service. Business in the hands of those who possess money.
The Ministry of Health (MOH) is not playing its role fully in protecting the profession of medicine against serious violations which eventually have the negative impact on health condition of the Yemeni citizen. They either buy expired medicines or find out that certain drug stores are run by unqualified chemists.
It is a very serious issue which needs a follow-up and full-knowledge of the serious consequences. Those responsible at the MOH should be aware of what is going on. Grave consequences await us. A real catastrophe will definitely emerge if affairs are not put right through follow-up and proper supervision.
Drug importing companies and their stores on one hand and the widely spread drug stores on the other deal in suspicious medicines, as smuggling sheds shameful disclosures.
It would appear that this subject is repeated; but the Yemen Times would like to knock at the door again in the hope to see affairs going smoothly and as they should.
A Tahreer Plaza chemist, Mr. Ahmed Muhammed Omer said: We ourselves are really disturbed with this state of affairs. It is a trade more than a service. It is corruption everywhere in all directions. Most of drug store owners have influence at MOH. Senior officials control this business. However, honestly speaking qualified medical cadres, within the aspect of laws and standards, do exist at some drug stores.

A Zubairi Main Road drug store owner Mr. Khaled Al-Shami believes that persons who benefit out of this business are limited in number. They are the ones who enjoy influence and authority. We, owners of small pharmacies, are tied up with laws, he said. He added: Our profits are not that much swollen. With this paltry profit we confront the frequent tax-collectors and unwelcome visitors from the Municipality, Cleaning, Health, and Environment offices and, settle our monthly water and electricity bills. Extortions…illegality everywhere.

Hameed Al-Khawlani, a pharmacist said: The biggest worry is that drug store owners smuggle medicines and sell them at lower prices in a bid to beat our standard prices. So we are facing two sides. The first is official one represented in tax-collectors and cleaning office staff and the second are these smuggling houses owned by heavyweight capitalists.

Employed at the Republican Hospital, Dr. Nabeel Al-Ibsi is of the opinion that lack of supervision on drug stores has led to appearance of more serious cases of illness after taking expired medicines. Such medicines usually enter Yemen through smugglers who never know ways of storing them. Excessive heat spoils the medicine. Dr. Ibsi added: Some medicines are below the standard but are in demand owing to the poor purchasing power of the consumer. Many drug stores practice this, through unqualified dispensers owing to absence of supervision, the doctor said stressing that many dispensers possess experience but actually they know nothing about medicines.

At the Environmental Health, a worker said, on condition not to be identified, that supervision or inspections are not carried out on regular basis. There is an obvious process in selection regarding whose expired medical goods to destroy. He has further said that the Environmental Health has uncovered much of expired medicine in drug stores and laboratory analyzes proved their being unfit for human consumption. Nevertheless, many of such cases are still suspending in the hands of the prosecution without any prompt and affective action in order to stop the disaster. The worker said that many companies dealing with medicine trade never store their imports in the proper manner, thus exposing these medicines to various temperatures. This changes the effect of the medicines.

One of those in charge of department of cleaning workers at the Ministry of Housing said that the importing companies stores never care for a clean street and yet they complain of cleaning fees. There are cases where we cannot approach some of these stores.

The Yemen Times contacted the Yemeni Society for the Protection of the Consumer (YSPC). The Vice-Chairman, Mr. Hamood Al-Bakhiti talked to us and said in short; but indicative manner: Many drug stores have been opened through official procedures but they sell medicines at unofficial level. He added : There are stores which neither taxes nor municipality officers have ever visited because these stores are owned by influential people whose employees are intruders to the profession. Mr. Bakhiti urged the competent authorities to circulate lists containing names of smuggled medicines through the media.

After summing-up these insertions, the Yemen Times , in an attempt to contribute with solutions to this serious problem, would like to put emphasize that several parties come together in service of the public interest. We propose the following measures:-

** The Ministry of Health should issue licenses to importing companies and drug stores under specific and tough conditions in the light of the breaches which have come up. Influence should be brushed off and proper measures should be observed while doing so.

** Medicine Control Apparatus and Environmental Health should carry out fortnightly checks at all companies and drug stores. Each medicine should be checked.

** The Ministry of Health should issue circulars black-listing smuggled medicines. The Ministry should open air-land-sea offices to intercept entry of un-authorized medicines. A careful look into dates of manufacture and expiry should be made.

** The Ministry of Supply & Trade should check the price of medicines sold by the companies and drug stores.

** Environmental Health officials and relevant authorities should uncover expired medicines and monitor work of these companies and stores.

** Activation of media role in this respect particularly in informing the society on perils of expired medicines.