WHAT'S UP DOC : Ten years on, drug-shops in TZ still ‘misbehave’

Monday June 12 2017

Dr Syriacus Buguzi

Dr Syriacus Buguzi 

By Dr Syriacus Buguzi six.buguzi@gmail.com

As years come and go in Tanzania, the tendency of people popping into drug-shops, buying the medicines they want and going home to self-medicate seems not to end. Why?

Well, for a very long time, people’s lack of awareness on the dangers of self-medication has had its share of the blame but looking at things closely, the mushrooming of drug-shops is increasingly contributing to it.

Ten years ago, researchers went around the country, trying to explore the challenges faced by pharmaceutical inspectors as they go about regulating retail drug sellers (duka za dawa baridi) in rural Tanzania—it was a sad story.

Their findings, published under the title: “Regulating Tanzania’s drug shops -- why do they break the rules, and does it matter?,’’ exposed gaps that we still dread until today.

“Most drug stores lacked valid permits, and illegal stocking of prescription-only medicines and unpackaged tablets was the norm. Most stocked unregistered drugs, and no serving staff met the qualification requirements,’’ reads the 2007 study in the Europe PubMed Central Journal.

A personal encounter

No wonder, just last week, a friend called me on the phone and said he had discovered—for the first time—that his blood pressure was abnormally high.

Knowing that I am a medical doctor, he called to ask where he could go and buy medication that could help him do what he described as “kushusha presha,” meaning, to lower down the blood pressure.

My answer disappointed him! But I soon realised that for the umpteenth time, I was preaching to someone about why they shouldn’t simply self-medicate.

In the end he said to me, “Dokta nimejifunza kitu,’’ meaning that he had learnt something from my ‘preaching’. Who knows! Perhaps this friend could have gone to any of the drug-shops in Dar es Salaam; bought some anti-hypertensive drugs from a rogue drug dispenser somewhere.

God knows what would have followed after he took the medication without proper instructions, especially on how to take meds, as risky as anti-hypertensives.

In my honest opinion, it’s about time the government and the pharmaceutical sector, went all-out to overhaul the entire drug dispensing and distribution system.

This is because, early in February this year, the Registrar of Tanzania Pharmaceutical Council (TPC), Ms Elizabeth Shekalaghe told me, “We have been inspecting and closing down the rogue outlets but they either relocate or rebrand themselves and continue doing the same business.”

Sad indeed!