Tuesday, 9 August, 2022
HomeNews UpdatePost Office unfit to distribute chronic meds – Pharmacy Association

Post Office unfit to distribute chronic meds – Pharmacy Association

There has been a surge of protest from pharmacists over the national Health Department’s decision to entrust the South African Post Office with the distribution of chronic medication to state patients.

The Independent Community Pharmacy Association (ICPA), a non-profit organisation representing 1,200 independently owned pharmacies and 3,500 pharmacists, said it was concerned about the Post Office’s “extremely poor track record when dealing with normal items of post”.

“The Post Office cannot be trusted with our letters. How can we trust them with our life-saving medicines? It is not unreasonable for a patient to want to collect chronic medicine from a facility that is regulated in terms of good pharmacy practice (GPP) and from a registered health-care professional who can counsel and advise them on the medicines they are collecting,” said ICPA CEO Jackie Maimin.

She said inappropriately stored medicines could quickly degrade, and certain medicines could become toxic or corrosive when they expired, reports the Sunday Times.

“It is a known fact that 5%-25% of all chronic medicines dispensed through chronic management programmes are actually collected. Currently, there is no mechanism for collection of uncollected medicines, and we are very concerned about what will happen to these as they start to accumulate at the Post Office.”

Maimin said ICPA was also worried that uncollected medicines might find their way into the illegal medicine market.

About 300 post offices in SA, with the exception of the Western Cape, have been vetted to be part of the department’s Central Chronic Medicine Dispensing and Distribution programme, which allows chronic patients to collect their medicines from external pickup points closer to their homes or places of work.

The programme was rolled out during the 2014/15 financial year and included Clicks, Dis-Chem and MediRite, doctors’ rooms and some community pharmacies.

Post Office spokesperson Johan Kruger, who referred queries to the Health Department, said the service was being rolled out at various branches, mainly in townships and suburbs in Gauteng, Limpopo, North West, Free State and KwaZulu-Natal.

“The Post Office was appointed as a collection point for pre-packaged medication. It does not dispense medication in the way pharmacists do.”

Health department spokesperson Foster Mohale said strict criteria, including geographical and physical accessibility, security of patients and medicines, reliable cold chain equipment or fridges and a good reporting system had to be in place for these pickup points.

“Out of all the post office branches in the country, only 300 met the criteria mentioned and we haven’t received any complaints since the roll-out of the programme.

“The role of the pickup points is merely to issue what has been dispensed and packaged by qualified pharmacists in line with pharmacy regulations, with the details of the patients. We have enrolled more than 5m patients who collect their life-saving medication from 2,800 external pickup points in eight provinces. Western Cape has a similar system, so there was no need to reinvent the wheel,” said Mohale.

Vincent Tlala, head of the South African Pharmacy Council, said the body was not consulted about the inclusion of the Post Office.

“The council is aware of the growing concerns from pharmacy professionals regarding the Post Office being used for the delivery of medicines to chronic patients.

“We are still establishing the details regarding the arrangement between the Post
Office and the Department of Health, especially whether unqualified people will be handling the medicines and whether the Post Office has proper storage facilities.

“However, we emphasise that medicines should always be dispensed and stored by or under the direct supervision of a pharmacist or other registered health-care professional holding the relevant permit, in line with regulation 21 of the regulations relating to the practice of pharmacy.”

Mohale said the department did not dispute challenges facing the Post Office but the ones selected have met requirements and are being monitored regularly just like other pickup points.

“Once the medicines in packs arrive at the point of collection, the patients receive SMSes to collect within 14 days. All uncollected medicines are returned to the pharmacy depot by the contracted courier companies.”


Sunday Times PressReader article – ‘Post Office unfit to distribute chronic meds’ (Open access)


See more from MedicalBrief archives:


Pharmacists concerned about Post Office’s delivery of chronic meds


Medication ATMs launched in SA: patient waiting times cut to under 3 minutes


Doctors in new turf war with pharmacists over ‘unlawful and unfair’ competition



MedicalBrief — our free weekly e-newsletter

We'd appeciate as much information as possible, however only an email address is required.