“Don’t be misled by Chemists’ shops”

April 1971: Are pharmacists just shopkeepers in the eyes of the public? Parliament hears about the latest developments

“The physical appearance of most pharmacies led many people to regard the work of a pharmacist simply as that of a shop keeper who also counts tablets and scrapes labels”, said a Sydney University submission to a House of Representatives Select Committee, as reported by the AJP in April 1971.

” However, it is an extremely rare person who queries whether the pharmacist has dispensed the
correct drug, even though most people are aware of how potent are most of the drugs dispensed”, said the submission, by Professor T.R. Watson and Dr. Jack Thomas [a long time AJP contributing editor].

“On the one hand, the public wants pharmacists to be responsible for the distribution of medicines (i.e. the reason for the statutory requirements), but on the other hand, it is very quick to pass uninformed opinion on his professional role”.

Professor Watson and Dr. Thomas opened their submissions to the Select Committee, which is inquiring
into all aspects of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, with an analysis of the history of pharmacy
education and legal requirements.

After describing the poisons Schedules, the submission dealt with retail pharmacy.

To most critics of the profession the pharmacist’s role involves little more than counting or pouring of pre-prepared medicines, or the mere changing of the label on a manufacturer’s product, the AJP went on to say.

“It appears that he must simply follow the instructions given on the prescription and be sure that the correct drug is given to the patient in the correct dosage.

In fact the responsibility of the pharmacist towards the community is greater now than it ever was.

The practice of compounding has declined in the last two or three decades. Apart from some ointments, creams and mixtures, the drugs commonly in use require more accurate and involve more complex dispensing than is possible in most pharmacies, and the acceptable dose-forms, tablets and capsules, are more appropriately manufactured by the Pharmaceutical industry”.


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