Retail drug shops tend to constitute the largest group of recognized outlets for medicines in developing countries, and they are often seen as playing an important role in the community’s health. Typically, however, drug sellers are untrained, regulations of shops are unenforced, and the quality of pharmaceuticals that shops sell is not assured.
Systematically improving the services and products offered by drug shops can signiﬁcantly contribute to national and regional goals for improving public health. If drug shops have legal access to quality pharmaceuticals and well-trained dispensers, and regulatory standards are enforced, shops can help improve access to and appropriate use of medicines and other health care–related products to treat common conditions, particularly among underserved populations.
To develop a program that improves retail drug shops and their operations, an integrated approach is needed that is supported by national and local authorities as well as shop personnel. Certain components are also needed to establish shop standards, ensure pharmaceutical and service quality, improve the availability of essential medications, and establish mechanisms for monitoring adherence to program standards.
An integrated approach to improving retail drug shops using the accreditation model would typically include -
- Development of regulatory standards defining requirements for shop premises, personnel, and dispensing practices
- Training in dispensing and the medicines used for commonly presented medical conditions; continuing education for shop personnel to improve customer service and appropriate medicine use
- A list of essential medicines that can be dispensed legally by an appropriately trained drug seller, along with strict adherence to the standards, established with input from stakeholders, for the quality and types of medicines that are permitted to be stocked
- Incentives such as business training for owners
- Access to loans for improvement of shop premises and expanded inventory
- Establishment of record-keeping systems to allow shop owners to monitor sales, inventory, costs, and proﬁts
- Improved monitoring and supervision mechanisms, including self-monitoring, and regular shop inspections by authorities for regulatory enforcement
- Consumer education to promote the appropriate use of medicines and public demand for quality medicines and competent services from recognized shops
Any approach to strengthen the quality of services offered at retail drug shops must focus on providing safe, affordable, appropriate, and effective pharmaceuticals to populations in need.
A website (http://www.drugsellerinitiatives.org) shares experiences and tools from drug seller initiatives to provide a resource for those in any country with an interest in improving access to quality pharmaceutical services and products provided by drug sellers.