Public warned on ‘ghost’ pharmacists


MANILA, Philippines—Beware of “ghosts” pharmacists.

The public should be wary of drug stores that continue to sell prescription drugs although they do not have pharmacists who can assist consumers, the Philippine Pharmacists Association said Tuesday.

Yolanda Robles, PPA executive vice-president and former dean of the University of the Philippines College of Pharmacy, said the many drug stores show only “certificates” that they have pharmacists but they do not have anyone present who can advice the public about the dosage of the medicines they buy.

“The problem is we have colleagues who are called ghosts pharmacists. Who are these ghosts pharmacists? They are the ones whose licenses are hung on the wall of drugs stores but they are actually not there,” Robles said in a forum in Manila.

She said the head of the Professional Regulatory Commission’s Board of Pharmacy conducted a survey in Camanava (Caloocan, Malabon, Navotas and Valenzuela) in October and found out that 70 percent of drug stores there had no pharmacists “at the time of her visit.”

“Seventy percent had no pharmacist present while while 100 percent had `certificates.’ But pharmacists should be present at all times,” Robles said.

“It is worse in the provinces. (Provincial governments) are complaining and the Food and Drug Administration does not have enough inspectors. So, when a drug store opens, they usually have no license or pharmacists. They’re like ordinary stores,” she added.

Robles also noted that there were more than 20,000 drug stores in the country, excluding unlicensed pharmacies, but the PPA has only 12,600 registered members.

She said the absence of pharmacists could endanger the health of consumers because no one is present to advise members of the public about the medicines they buy.

“We should remember that medicines are not candies. If you use it incorrectly—there is not enough dosage or there is too much–it could have a negative effect on the health of the patient,” Robles said.

“Medicines have an effective dosage range and a toxic range and, when you reach (the latter), that is when you have ill effects. Medicines are chemicals. They could affect your liver or your kidneys,” she said.

“On the other hand, if the dosage is not enough, it’s like you are just tickling the bacteria,” Robles added.

She also pointed out the global problem of “anti-microbial resistance” or antibiotics failing to control bacterial infections due to their frequent use.

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