Dangerous docs

Some physicians dispensing medication in wrong or inappropriate containers

BY ARTHUR HALL
Editor-at-Large
halla@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

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There are more signs emerging of the danger being posed by doctors who dispense medication from their offices and bypassing pharmacists.

Following the Jamaica Observer's report last Sunday of the life-threatening risks being posed by doctors who operate their offices as full-time pharmacies, a number of people have shared horror stories of getting medication sloppily and sometimes dangerously packaged.

In one case a woman shared photos of tablets given to her by her doctor in a piece of paper sealed at the sides and top with staples.

The crude package did not include the name of the doctor, the patient, the date, or any other data, except the instruction to “take 1 tablet each morning”.

In another case, a pharmacist shared photos of medication given by a doctor in Westmoreland to a patient for asthma or other forms of inflammation in a container that is usually used to store anxiety pills.

“The container should not be used due to risk of cross-contamination,” argued the pharmacist, who asked not to be named.

“This is unacceptable dispensing,” added the pharmacist as she declared that she has seen several similar cases in the western Jamaica parish in which she operates.

Last week, the Pharmaceutical Society of Jamaica raised an alarm about doctors who have been using their receptionists and other untrained persons to dispense medication.

“The matter of dispensing from a doctor's office must be carefully considered by the patients. According to a report from Johns Hopkins in 2018, medical error was the third leading cause of death following heart disease and cancer,” warned the Pharmaceutical Society.

It added: “Although there is very little documentation of errors in Jamaica, pharmacists can attest to contacting doctors daily to recommend adjustments to prescriptions for errors detected. Many errors are identified by a pharmacist. What happens when the pharmacist is bypassed? What happens when there is no buffer between the prescriber and the patient?”

The Pharmaceutical Society also charged that some community pharmacies might have to close their doors as they are not getting prescriptions from the doctors who are diagnosing and selling medication.

“This undue pressure can lead to unethical practices among pharmacists/pharmacy owners who may assume the role of the doctor and begin to prescribe as a matter of survival. This tit for tat would never resolve this problem as the patient would still be in danger from receiving medication for an incorrect diagnosis,” warned the Pharmaceutical Society.

“The model situation is for each health care provider to correctly assume his/her role and provide optimal patient care,” added the body which represents local pharmacists.

It noted that the operations of pharmacies in Jamaica are regulated and the pharmacist or owner could be subjected to a fine of up to $1 million or six months to a year in prison and would be unable to practise if found guilty of dispensing prescription-only items without a prescription.

“Medical doctors do not have these penalties in law,” said the Pharmaceutical Society.


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