Only 2 of 96 pharmacies tested by Belgian consumer group Test Achats asked patients enough questions to determine whether a requested drug was appropriate, the group announced in a press release on Tuesday.
Test Achats sent researchers posing as clients to 96 pharmacies across Belgium. The clients were asked to request certain medicines seen in advertisements, namely Neurofen 400mg fast capsules and Bronchosedal Mucus.
Under standard procedure, pharmacists must ask various questions to assess whether these chemicals should be sold to the customer. Nevertheless, only two pharmacists did so.
Test Achats expressed alarm at the finding, recalling that it is the responsibility of the provider of the medicines to ensure that they were appropriate for the patient, not the other way around. Julie Frère, spokesperson for the consumer group, highlighted that “Pharmacists must use their added experience compared to that of a simple salesperson and take their role seriously."
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Test Achats undertook the survey as part of its push to ban medicine advertisements, as well as strengthen compulsory education for pharmacists and quality of care indicators for pharmacies.
The Belgian pharmaceutical association (APB) is not opposed to these proposals but wished to reassure the public in light of the consumer group’s survey.
“We are disappointed by the results obtained by Test Achats,” said Nicolas Echement, spokesperson for the APB. “The quality of service in our pharmacies is important to us and we are doing everything we can to improve it. We are going to communicate the results of the survey to our members and remind them of the procedures to apply.”