Mon, 17 Apr 2000

Moonlighting pharmacists neglect public's rights

JAKARTA (JP): A new study reveals that pharmacists who run drugstores have neglected the public rights to information on medication, while an official said many in the profession were actually moonlighting civil servants.

The survey, results of which were announced on Saturday, was conducted by pharmacology students from the University of Indonesia's School of Mathematics and Science. It shows that only 5 percent of observed drugstores had their pharmacists standing by to serve customers.

The survey was conducted from April 8 to April 12 on 22 drugstores out of 849 registered in Jakarta in 1999. Although the study was small, the students claimed that the survey was valid because the drugstores picked were spread across the capital.

An official in charge of medicine supervision confirmed the lack of professionalism of her colleagues in a discussion on Saturday.

The Ministry of Health's secretary of the Director General of Food and Medicine Supervision, Mawarwati, said the career of a pharmacist has widely become a side job, while many pharmacists who run drugstores are also civil servants.

"Many use the low salary as civil servants as an excuse to run a drugstore business, but this cannot justify their lack of professionalism," she said.

The survey also states that the pharmacists' absence at drugstores has led to a lack of security assurance regarding medication.

Mawarwati said there was a law regulating the role of pharmacists in drugstores but enforcement was poor.

In 1993, the ministry regulated that pharmacists should serve customers and provide them with information on the directions for using medicine and the side effects of prescribed medicines.

The regulation also states that pharmacists should be able to answer any question from customers regarding their medication.

The survey states that currently, the role of pharmacists had been taken over by their assistants or even cashiers, who lacked competence.

Reading the team's report, a member of the survey team said, "There is no interaction between pharmacists and patients."

Pharmacist Amir Hamzah Pane from the Pharmacy for Society Forum said the Indonesian Pharmacology Graduates Association (ISFI) should be more active in improving members' professionalism.

ISFI chairman Marzuki Abdullah said the association was considering an internal rule which would punish members violating the above 1993 ministerial rule.

Marzuki told The Jakarta Post that any pharmacist who wanted to open a drugstore requires a recommendation letter from ISFI that would be admitted to a regional office of the ministry.

But he also added that some regional offices allow pharmacists to open a drugstore without the recommendation letter.

In January, he said, ISFI had already recommended to the government that drugstores selling prescription-only medication over the counter should be closed. A number of drugstores at that time were charged with selling narcotics, Marzuki said.

Saturday's one-day talks were held ahead of the association's conference, to begin on April 24.

The conference will, among others things, propose separate pharmacology studies under the schools of mathematics and science in universities, Marzuki said. Another pharmacist said the studies should be under a special school of pharmacology due to the specific features of the subject compared to pure science. (08)