Behind the counter: Nepal’s pharmacies under the lens

Pharmacy pharmacies
A pharmacy at Bir Hospital.

Reflecting on my personal experiences visiting pharmacies for my needs and my mother’s, I have figured out two sides of Nepal’s pharmacy.

First and foremost, pharmacies serve as the primary destination for a majority of Nepali individuals prior to consulting doctors whenever they have health issues. And pharmacists play an important role in a patient’s life as most Nepali do not have access to proper health care facilities such as hospitals.

In certain situations, pharmacists serve as primary healthcare providers for individuals who lack access to hospitals. However, there are times when they put people at risk by giving medicine not prescribed by doctors.

This is why a respectful dialogue of pharmacy practice and its role in healthcare is prominent at this point.

Role of pharmacists

In Nepal’s healthcare picture, pharmacies and pharmacists have important roles. While they have the tendency to heal people, there are some who can make people worse. Most stand as sturdy pillars, providing a sense of hope, yet there are instances that can overshadow their positive reputation.

In Nepal, pharmacies, frequently referred to as the “hospitals for the common person,” hold significant importance. Particularly in areas where accessing a hospital is challenging, these pharmacies become the first destination for addressing health issues.

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Pharmacists at pharmacies do two things: they give advice and hand out important medicines. These pharmacists have knowledge about various treatments, ranging from those requiring a doctor’s prescription to over-the-counter options. This makes an important component in today’s day and age.

Picture this: An anxious parent rushes to a nearby pharmacist, seeking guidance on how to cure their child’s fever. The parent attentively takes the pharmacist’s advice, not only due to their extensive knowledge but also because of their genuine concern. As a result, these pharmacies transform into places of comfort and hope for people who need help

The other side of pharmacists

However, in this story of trust, there is a dark side too. Sometimes, pharmacists change what a doctor has written on a prescription. Some pharmacists think they know better, but this can be bad for the person’s health. It is like someone you trust is letting you down.

Another thing that is concerning is when pharmacies give out medicines without a doctor’s note. This happens in places doctors are not quite accessible. Even though it is not really their fault, this tendency can be risky.

In the absence of proper checkups, incorrect dosages or adverse reactions could occur, worsening the issue. It is equally concerning when pharmacists modify medications despite a doctor’s specific instructions. At times, patients remain unaware of these alterations. Such practices not only contradict ethical principles but also jeopardise the safety of the patient.

Photo to represent medicinal capsules. Flickr

These challenges undermine the trust that individuals once held in pharmacists. There was a time when people had significant faith in them, but now that confidence has gone down. This disruption strains the relationship between healthcare providers and those seeking assistance. To address this issue, it requires a collective effort from all pharmacy personnel to collaboratively address and rectify these concerns while adhering to established regulations.

It is important to understand that pharmacists have a tough job too. In places where doctors are far away, they might feel like they have to do more than they should. However, everyone needs to think about what is right and make sure people are safe.

Nepal’s pharmacies and pharmacists can make things right again. They can work with doctors and ensure everything is checked properly. They can also make people aware of their health.

Doing these things can help bring back the trust that was lost and show that pharmacies are really important in Nepal’s healthcare world. The story of Nepal’s pharmacies has two sides – one of kindness and care, and another of problems.

By fixing these issues, the pharmacy community can become strong pillars of health and trust once again. Everyone should work together to make sure that pharmacies and pharmacists are seen as helpers, protectors, and champions of good health.

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GC is a research faculty at Kathmandu Research Institute for Biological Sciences (KRIBS).

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