Pharmacies on front line of primary health care

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The Pharmacist Association of Cambodia is an industry group with members all over Cambodia. Its purpose is to help pharmacy operators exchange ideas and to offer them technical, legal and business assistance. Its services are offered in all 25 provinces.

According to Hul Roeurn, executive director of the association, there are two kinds of medicine offered by pharmacists: prescription medicines, which cannot be sold to a person unless they have a prescription from a doctor, and over-the-counter drugs, which do not require a prescription.

Mr Roeurn said: “Pharmacists do not need to concern themselves with the details of a purchase if the patient has a prescription. However, if a patient consults a pharmacist directly about a problem,  this should cover primary needs only. But the pharmacist must carefully ascertain the symptoms before offering drugs to people, in order to avoid problems.”

Primary care includes treatments for diarrhoea, headache, stomachache, and fever. In these cases, pharmacists can select medicines for a customer.

Mr Roeurn mentioned that medicines can have negative side-effects if not used properly, especially antibiotics. Many people in Cambodia buy antibiotics from pharmacies without consulting a doctor first, which is a mistake on the part of both the customer and the pharmacist. The problem is common in developing countries, he said.

“Nowadays, authorities are trying to reduce the amount of antibiotic medicines sold to patients who don’t have prescriptions. These efforts are being made by the Ministry of Health, JICA and other NGOs, and some industry associations. Awareness of the problem is growing. The problem is worst in rural areas, where people lack information in terms of health,” he said.

Since people in rural areas still lack information, Mr Roeurn suggested that people go to health centres, which are present almost everywhere in Cambodia. He strongly cautioned against buying medicine without discussing the illness with a doctor. Even if a medicine seems to work in the short term, it could prove harmful later on, he said.

Mr Roeurn urged people 40 and older to check their health once every three to six months, as they are more at risk of high blood pressure and stroke. Exercise is very important, even if only for 30 minutes a day, he said.

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