Pharmacy Practices in Fiji
The pharmaceutical sector plays an important role in providing safe and affordable medications to the citizens of any country. Fiji is no exception. For this, a strong regulatory mechanism is required to monitor prices and availability of essential medicines to ensure that 34% in urban areas and 43% of people in rural areas living below the poverty line have access to affordable medications. A consumer depends solely on the doctors and the pharmacists to be treated fairly while prescribing and dispensing medicines. Medications are perhaps the only product where consumers cannot exercise their preference and therefore trust that professional guidance is provided by the pharmacist in good faith. Therefore, professional and ethical conduct of pharmacist is paramount in ensuring that consumers are treated fairly. The government has played its part by making prescribed medicines both duty and VAT exempt as well as placing these under price control. Despite all these measures, consumers are still complaining of high price variance between pharmacies and continued rising prices of pharmaceutical products. To this end, the Council carried out surveys in 2007 and 2009 to ascertain prices of commonly used prescription drugs which included medications used for diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and other non communicable diseases. The findings of these surveys were rejected by the Fiji Pharmaceutical Society (FPS) on the basis that they were technically flawed. The Council’s drawback while conducting the survey then was lack of profession advice and non cooperation by the retail sector. The Council thus decided to carry out a comprehensive survey with help and approval of the Ministry of Health and a technical expert. The objective of the survey was to investigate prices of prescription medicines, pharmacy practices in dispensing drugs and anti-competitive behaviour (if any) in the pharmaceutical sector. However, it was equally important for the Council to establish whether the current Price Control on medicines under the Commerce Commission is actually benefitting the consumers.