You Can Now Pick Up Chronic Medicines From Post Offices, But Pharmacists Are Worried

(Photo by Gallo Images/Sharon Seretlo)

  • Patients can now collect their medication for chronic conditions from more than 300 post offices in South Africa, excluding the Western Cape.
  • The post office says it has trained staff in handling the drugs and is using “existing high-security storage”.
  • But the South African Pharmaceutical Company raised concerns about the Post Office’s ability to comply with drug safety rules.
  • The South African Health Products Authority, responsible for enforcing the Medicines and Related Substances Act, said compliance issues should be referred to the South African Pharmacy Board.
  • The South African Pharmacy Board said it had not been consulted and knew very little about how medicines were packaged, transported, stored and distributed by post.
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The South African Post now allows patients to collect their chronic medications from more than 300 branches. Pharmacists have raised serious concerns about how this drug is stored and handled.

South Africa Post is trying to reinvent itself. The public postal service is technically insolvent. It hasn’t made a profit in over a decade. His C-suite titles have been gutted, signaling a severe skills shortage. It was forced to close branches due to non-payment of rents. Its mail delivery performance remains well below target.

The post office’s recovery strategy includes a controversial legal bid to stop all other couriers from delivering parcels weighing less than 1kg. SAPO wants to modernize its IT systems and provide new online services. He also wants at least 1.6 billion rand from the government, the latest in a long series of taxpayer-funded cash injections to keep SAPO afloat.

Amid the Post’s dire operational and financial situation, it announced earlier in June that it would manage and distribute chronic drugs. The service, which allows patients who would normally get their medicines from government clinics to collect them by post, is now offered in 342 branches across the country, except for the Western Cape.

“The service is for patients who live or work closer to one of these post offices than to a government clinic,” said SAPO when announcing the partnership with the Ministry of Health.

These patients can arrange alternative drug collection with their local clinic. Instead of the drugs being picked up at the clinic, they can be picked up at a SAPO branch when notified by an SMS issued by the Ministry of Health. Patients have 14 days to collect the drugs before they are returned to the Ministry of Health.

This arrangement was made between SAPO and the provincial health departments, which would explain why the Western Cape branches were excluded.

“We certainly hope to offer the service there as well, and we are still engaging the Western Cape provincial government on this issue,” post office spokesman Johan Kruger told Business Insider South Africa.

The transport, handling and storage of scheduled drugs are carefully regulated in South Africa, and questions arise as to whether SAPO can meet these strict requirements.

“Medicines are not a normal commercial product, as storage and distribution require very strict control requirements, such as maintaining the cold chain to ensure product stability and safety”, Ivan Kotzé, Executive Director of the Pharmaceutical Society of South Africa (PSSA), told Business Insider SA.

The South African Medicines and Related Substances Act sets out clear rules about what can and cannot be done with medicines. These legislative mandates, which deal in part with the preservation, storage, processing and packaging of medicines, are supported by the South African Health Products Authority (SAHPRA).

The health products regulator, interviewed by Business Insider SA, said that was not its “area” and that the South African Pharmacy Council (SAPC) would be better placed to deal with compliance issues.

But the SAPC was not consulted and only, after being approached by Business Insider SA for comment, put the issue on the agenda for a Wednesday board meeting. The exact arrangement between SAPO and provincial health departments, regarding the measures in place to ensure the safety and security of drugs to be collected from branches, remains unclear.

“We have yet to establish the nature of the arrangement between the Department of Health and the South African Post and the details relating to the handling, storage and distribution of the drugs,” said Vincent Tlala, Registrar and CEO of the SAPC, told Business Insider SA.

“However, we would like to emphasize that medicines must be dispensed and stored by or under the direct supervision of a pharmacist or other licensed healthcare professional holding the relevant license, in accordance with Regulation 21 of the Regulation relating to the practice of pharmacy (GNR. 1158 of 2000).

“We are unable to comment on the Post Office’s ability to comply with legislative requirements relating to the storage, handling and distribution of medicines, as we are not aware of the arrangement between them and the Ministry of Health.”

These concerns are shared by the PSSA, with Kotzé pointing out that consultations with SAHPRA, as the regulator responsible for the control and possession of drugs and scheduled substances, and the SAPC, as the regulator of the pharmacy profession responsible for control requirements, are important. to understand La Poste’s new collection service.

“I am of the view that the postal service in South Africa cannot ensure compliance with the requirements of good pharmaceutical practice, and if pharmacists are ‘forced’ to dispense medicines through the postal service, this will present a risk of practice for the pharmacist professional involved,” said Kotzé.

“A question that may arise is what will happen in the event of a strike by postal workers, as essential medicines will not be available in these circumstances.”

The post office told Business Insider SA that “existing staff have received training” and that “existing high-security branch storage is being used” to store chronic medications.

“One important difference is that drugs are returned to the Department of Health after 14 days of non-retrieval. Ordinary packages are held for 60 days before being returned to sender,” Kruger said.

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