Pharmaceutical Society of Zambia president Jerome Kanyika says the move by the Zambia Medical Regulatory Authority (ZAMRA) to close 40 non-compliant pharmacies in Lusaka is brave.

In an interview, Kanyika said it was also a danger and serious offence for the closed pharmacies to be dispensing drugs to patients without qualified pharmacists.

Last week, ZAMRA suspended registration certificates for 40 registered retail pharmacies in Lusaka for breach of terms and conditions under which their licenses were granted.

“The Zambia Medicines Regulatory Authority (ZAMRA) has suspended certificates of registration of 40 registered retail pharmacies in Lusaka for breach of terms and conditions of the certificate of registration under which their licences was granted. 64 pharmacies were inspected and 40 were found operating without required qualified pharmacists and were ordered to close. In some instances, prescription-only medicines were dispensed without prescriptions. The Authority would like to urge pharmacists working and managing pharmacies to be present at all times in order to enhance the levels of compliance in retail outlets,” ZAMRA public relations officer Ludovic Mwape stated.

“We have noted with great concern the increase in the absence of pharmacists in most outlets resulting in non-qualified personnel dispensing prescription-only medicines to members of the public without prescriptions. In the case of antibiotics, this practice, if left unchecked, has potential to contribute to the increase in antimicrobial resistance. We wish to sternly warn all registered retail pharmacies/chemists to adhere to good pharmaceutical practices as the Authority will not hesitate to suspend or revoke Certificate of Registration to all those found wanting.”

And in an interview, Kanyika said the move by ZAMRA was a brave one.

“I want to commend ZAMRA for being brave and taken action over the 40 pharmacies that were non-compliant with the law. And when you check properly, one of the major reasons for these pharmacies is lack of a pharmacists in there, and it’s one of the major requirements for opening up a pharmacy. So, meaning that these pharmacies, because they didn’t have a pharmacist, they were turned to be illegal drug stores because there was no professional to answer the queries from the general public [or] the patients. So, this is very much commendable and I think it’s provided for in the medicines and other Substance Act number 3 of 2013, Section 3 (24) on the closure of pharmacies,” Kanyika said.

He observed that ZAMRA followed the law accordingly when suspending the practising certificates for the 40 pharmacies.

“So, ZAMRA followed the law and we are hoping that the owners or the proprietors of those businesses of retail pharmacies should by all means try to adhere to the requirements of the law by employing well-trained pharmacists, who should be able to comply with what the law states. And this task should not only be based in Lusaka; ZAMRA should also do the same on the Copperbelt and make sure that the general public are protected by making these registered pharmacies to be compliant,” he advised.

“Unlike the way it is where they have stated that some pharmacies were dispensing antibiotics without a [qualified] pharmacist. This is also a big case and those pharmacies that have been dispensing the antibiotics without the pharmacist, I think ZAMRA should take serious action because they are causing the resistance, which we are fighting. So, as Pharmaceutical Society of Zambia, we are very much happy and we commend ZAMRA for taking brave action towards these pharmacies that are non-compliant. It is the first time ZAMRA closed 40 pharmacies at a go for no compliance since the time it was created.”

And Kanyika appealed to ZAMRA to also move in and close illegal drug stores.

“And as ZAMRA has also moved in to close the pharmacies that are non-compliant, they should also move in and make sure that the illegal drug stores are also closed. If ZAMRA can close the registered pharmacies, why not also move in and close the illegal drug stores? Because the problem which was there was [that] ZAMRA was not closing the pharmacies that were non-compliant, but they were closing only illegal drug stores; [but] now, they have shown that they are not applying the law selectively, they are applying the law in both ends. So, they should make sure that they also go in and close even those illegal drug stores that are operating without the proper documentation and without following the law of Zambia,” urged Kanyika.