How quack pharmacists risk lives of patients

Despite the poisons board issuing guidelines on fluoroquinolones, the antibiotics can still be accessed easily in some chemists without any follow-up precautions.

The antibiotic was flagged early in the year by the Pharmacy and Poisons Board(PPB) after several cases of adverse drug reaction associated with it.

In its guideline released March 14, 2019, PPB issued instructions indicated that the antibiotics used to treat various bacterial infections have been associated with increased risk of disabling adverse drug reaction affecting muscles, tendons and the nervous system.

In your local chemist, the drug is sold as levofloxacin or ciprofloxacin among other variations.

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“Healthcare Providers (HCPs) have been advised to prescribe Fluoroquinolones & Quinolones only when there are no other antibiotics that can be used to treat the infection because of the nature of these adverse events,” read the statement from PPB.

The Standard reporters successfully purchased and found that while the antibiotic is still being sold; no instructions are given on how dangerous its side effects can be.

A chemist in Kiambiu, Eastleigh, sold a five-day dose of ciprofloxacin to The Standard for Sh150 but the lady attendant never asked for any history of a drug reaction to fluoroquinolones or explain the dangers of the drug.

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The Standard reporter complained of itchiness while peeing and the attendant said a five-day dose of ciprofloxacin-one times two daily- would be enough to treat it.

The chemist had no name or green cross which is a sign by all members of the Pharmaceutical Society of Kenya (PSK) that an outlet has qualified staff and is duly registered.

PSK Chief Executive Officer Daniella Munene said it is likely that the chemist is one of those operating illegally.

“Non-qualified persons are more likely to sell to the patient whatever they want rather than educating them about the harms of self-medication,” said Munene.

Munene said there is a lack of education on part of patients, staff working at pharmacies and that many outlets have unqualified persons who can get away with it.

“Qualified pharmacists would not risk since their licenses can be withdrawn but for any Tom Dick and Harry, they are likely to take the risk because their names do not appear on any register,” said Munene.

She added: “The most the government can do is to lock up the pharmacy but they can still open another somewhere else.”

When the antibiotic was sold to The Standard, the chemist attendant was quick to absolve herself of any anticipated complaints about the drug.

“Just remember it is you who has prescribed the drug for yourself so don’t come saying it did not work,” caution the attendant.

PPB guidelines on the antibiotic state that the healthcare provider should be used with caution to the elderly, persons with kidney disease and those who have recently had an organ transplant.

None of these queries were posed by the attendant.

A situational analysis by PSK dated July 19, 2019, noted that the operation of quacks in Kenya have been so rife that is slowly pushing qualified personnel out of business.

“This has resulted in the majority of pharmacists choosing to exit or avoiding entry into the community pharmacy sector altogether -a self-perpetuating phenomenon where the qualified opt-out and the unqualified are all too willing to take their place,” reads the analysis.

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Pharmacy and Poisons BoardQuack pharmacists