The National Pharmacy Council has called for a crackdown on illegal and substandard pharmacies which it says sell substandard pharmaceutical products.
The call was made during the council’s 6th general assembly and conference held under the theme "Pharmacy ethics, laws and professionalism," in Kigali on Friday.
Noel Rutambuka, the deputy chairman of the council, revealed that between 2015 and 2017, they unearthed 15 cases of distribution of poor quality pharmaceutical products, and 56 illegal and substandard pharmacies that were opened without a pharmacist staff.
“Pharmacy code of ethics must be complied with. We cannot agree to opening of a pharmacy without a qualified pharmacist. We urge directors of pharmacy at districts to stop the trend because they also do inspection. We have to collaborate in this. We are ready to report the cases to the police to investigate the malpractices that put people’s health at risk,” he said.
There are over 800 registered pharmacies across the country which the council said are still few compared to the market demand.
At least 80 per cent of those working in pharmacy did not study the profession, according to the council.
Dr Raymond Muganga, the chairman of the council, added that measures are being taken to weed out unprofessional staff and recruit registered pharmacists.
“The number of pharmacists has increased and, therefore, all hospitals, health centres and pharmacies should employ trained pharmacists,” he said.
He also warned pharmacies against giving drugs to patients without medical prescription.
Muganga said their assessment also revealed that some pharmacies import pharmaceutical products in an illegal manner which is also punishable by law and it is a breach of professional code of ethics.
He said six individuals were punished last year for the anomaly.
Frederic Muhoza, the pharmaceutical services supervisor at the Ministry of Health, said: “Everyone can open a pharmacy because it is a business but must hire a pharmacist to work with. When a pharmacist resigns, is dismissed or dies, the pharmacy must be closed until another pharmacist is hired according to the law.”
He added that heavy punishment is imposed on persons possessing counterfeit or substandard pharmaceutical products, medical devices, cosmetics and expired medicaments.
“Recently we received a case of a patient who was given expired medicine and when we carried out an inquiry we realised that someone who used to deliver the products previously was not a pharmacist, we want to ensure that professional pharmacists are employed to ensure patients’ health is not endangered,” he said.
He urged patients as well as healthcare providers to report cases of counterfeit medicine, suspected contamination of products, among other product quality problems.
“We have a pharmacy policy which emphasises safety monitoring in all public hospitals. There is also a draft law establishing the Rwanda Food and Drug Authority, and quality control laboratory under RSB currently helps monitoring. ICT initiatives will also contribute to medicine safety monitoring,” he added.