Today after recent medical reforms [that eliminated the requirement that only state-owned hospitals dispense prescription medicines], more and more people are relying on drug stores for medicines. And yet customers are left dissatisfied because drug store clerks who know little about medical care are frequently misinforming them. How to provide more professional medical services has become an emerging issue for pharmacies and their relevant management institutions.
Most people will follow directions given by clerks on prescribed medicines they purchase at drug stores although many clerks really have no idea what they are talking about, according to an investigation conducted by journalists in Daoli, Daowai and Taiping districts of Harbin, the capital city of northeast China's Heilongjiang Province. At a drug store located in Anguo Street, Daoli District, a journalist posing as an ordinary customer asked a clerk to clarify directions on a medicine prescribed for burns which only said three times a day. Two clerks answered at the same time, "You really donít know? Three times a day means morning, noon and evening." But later a doctor consulted by the same journalist said that the correct application was at eight-hours intervals during the 24 hours of a day.
Similar wrong suggestions on drug usage came from clerks at drug stores near Jingyu Boulevard and Taiping Bridge in Daowai District. A journalist told a clerk that he was no longer allergic to penicillin although he was once. He then asked if he could take penicillin even though directions said "not for those allergic to penicillin." Several clerks casually answered, "You can."
Relevant data shows more than 190,000 people are killed by misuse of medicines in China last year, which is shocking. This problem can be attributed to poor management of drug stores that lack responsible personnel. Today only 50 certified pharmacists are working in Harbin Cityís some 1,570 drug stores. Few drug stores can offer correct guidance to patients. And the Zuodangyi [doctor employed at a traditional Chinese pharmacy to see patients or practice medicine at the pharmacy] system has been abandoned. People are appealing for the implementation of pharmaceutical system in drug stores that can offer better consultation services on prescriptions to alleviate a serious problem.
(From 《哈尔滨日报》[Harbin Daily] January 19, 2002 translated for china.org.cn by Li Liangdu)