Pharmacists protest new ministry rules

The Egyptian Pharmacists Syndicate on Sunday continued its protest against new Health Ministry regulations stipulating that pharmacies must not be less than 40 square meters in size in order to qualify for licenses.

Syndicate officials say the new order will make it difficult for young pharmacy graduates to start their own businesses and would serve to deprive millions of impoverished Egyptians living in shantytowns–which generally lack sizable pharmacies–of adequate medical services.

In a memo addressed to Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif, syndicate officials noted that some 40 different medicines were being smuggled into the country every year, many of which were not up to official standards. The memo accused the Health Ministry of failing to adequately deal with the problem, pointing out that some 10 percent of the medicines currently sold on the local market had been smuggled from abroad.

According to the syndicate, the ministry has also stopped checking expiry dates of drugs and medicines, preferring to put responsibility for this on individual pharmacies–an indication, according to the syndicate, that the ministry was "losing control" of the industry. Syndicate officials also pointed out that pharmaceutical companies generally refused to take back expired products, forcing pharmacies to sell them at half price–a practice that could result in serious health problems for consumers.

Syndicate officials further claim that the ministry’s warehouses were not properly built to store medicines, since they lack ventilation and are therefore prone to higher-than-usual humidity.

Translated from the Arabic Edition.

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