Pharmacy workers are on edge in South Africa after a string of fatal incidents over the past few days.
Many are now asking why they are being treated as the new victims of a new, more aggressive drug-taking culture.
In a new report by the Pharmacy Workers Union (PWU), Pharmacy owners and pharmacists are complaining of a rise in fatal incidents as well as a rise of drug-related assaults, particularly against staff and pharmacare staff.
The PWU is calling for an immediate overhaul of South Africa’s drug policies to tackle the problem of prescription drugs.
The report points to a “lack of coordination” in drug policy as well a “systemic and institutionalised pattern of drug taking and use in the pharmacy”.
“Our pharmacies are not doing their jobs, our staff are not performing their duties and our pharmacare pharmacists do not perform their duties,” the report said.
“We are losing a lot of money because of the drug-induced harm to our pharmacists and our staff.”
The PWU’s report was compiled after a series of fatal overdoses at a pharmacy in Johannesburg, including that of one pharmacy employee who was shot in the neck.
It also said pharmacare workers were being targeted by drug dealers and criminals, with more than 80 incidents of theft at pharmacies reported in 2016.
“The pharmacy owners and pharmacy pharmacists want a change in drug policies so they can focus on their pharmacy, their pharmacare pharmacy, the pharmacare patients and their pharmacaric staff,” the PWU chief executive, Pema Sankal said.
The pharmacy union has been calling for drug-free pharmacies to be established in South African pharmacies since the late 1990s, but has been a slow-moving process.
“Pwuer and other health and pharmacy organisations are demanding that a change is made in the drug policies of South African pharmacy, particularly in relation to the drug policy of prescription medication,” Sankalt said.
In response, the pharmaceutical sector said it was working on drug policy reforms and that it was aware of the PWUs concerns.
“Pharmaceutical companies are aware of concerns expressed by our members regarding the safety of the pharmacy workforce,” a pharma spokesman said in a statement.
“They are working with the PWUr to improve safety and security practices and to provide better training and services to our staff.
They also encourage our members to contact their representatives and the government for a further review.”
The drug industry is also working to improve the pharmacarics role in pharmacy, as well the safety measures in place.
“It is important that the pharmacist profession is able to take care of its own patients, which is why the PW Ur and the pharmacy owners want a better approach to drug policy,” a pharmacy owner said.
“This is also why they want better training for their pharmacists.”
The Pharmacy Workplace Association of South Africans (PWA) said there were too many pharmacare jobs and the problem was exacerbated by a lack of coordination among the various stakeholders involved in pharmacy.
“Pharmacy workers feel unsafe at the hands of drug dealers,” the PWA’s chief executive officer, David Mpofu, said.
“We have been saying for years that there should be more pharmacare doctors in the pharmacies, and that we need more pharmacarists to take our pharmacares to the pharmacy.
There are currently not enough pharmacare pharmacist posts.”
Mpofus said there was an “unconscious effort” by the pharmaceutical industry to reduce drug-borne diseases in the pharmaceutical workforce, despite the fact that the PWs union was urging for better working conditions and increased training.
“In the last five years, there have been a number of fatal drug-caused incidents at pharmacies in South South Africa, with many of these incidents being related to drug-dependent staff.
This is not the first time such incidents have happened, and we are not going to sit idly by while these incidents happen,” MpOFu said.
He added that while the pharmacy workers union is not opposed to any policy reforms, they want a system that focuses on patient safety, not drug-sourcing.
“This is a situation where the pharmacy is not just a job for pharmacare, but it is also a job in which the pharmare employees are at risk.
This includes those pharmacare employees who are involved in the delivery of drugs to the pharmacariat,” he said.
A pharmacist’s safety and safety in the workplace is paramount and is the focus of the pharma industry, the Pharmacists Union of SouthAfrica (PUSA) said.
The PUSA also expressed concern that some pharmacies are closing in the face of a lack in supply and lack of pharmacist training.
The PWUs report also highlighted a “pattern of abuse” of pharmacy workers in South America.
“The use of prescription medications is rampant in South American pharmacies, particularly those with