CAPE TOWN - A worrying trend in townships has emerged whereby residents are apparently able to access prescription medication from hawkers.
It is alleged that the hawkers are connected with clinic staffers who sell pills at cheaper prices compared to pharmacy stores.
A Nyanga resident, who spoke on condition that she remain anonymous, said she went to buy some pills from a hawker.
When she was buying it, she was told by a hawker that the pills were delivered from various local clinics.
“The hawkers sell the pills at a very cheap price.
“A few weeks ago I went to get a pill from them and to my surprise they had a large selection.
“I asked them where they get the pills from and they told me that it is delivered in the mornings by the people that they work with from the clinics.
“It is rare that you get a full pack of pills at our community clinics, mostly you get one or two, but you are supposed to get the full pack and that raises eyebrows.
“If you have money and you want a certain pill and it happens that they don't have it, they will tell you to come back tomorrow.
“My worry is that people buy pills from hawkers without a doctor’s prescription and that may put their lives in danger,” she said.
Gugulethu Health Forum (GHF) member Sindiswa Zibaya alleged some local clinics were corrupt and needed to be thoroughly investigated, from staff members to the security guards.
“We see them every day in Gugulethu, by the mall carrying the medication in their bags and selling it to the people.
“In Nyanga, they are not ashamed at all, they sell medication like they are selling fruit and vegetables.
“Our local clinic has been months without eczema cream but if you go to the hawkers you will get it.
“Those hawkers don’t even check the expiry date, they just give you what you want as long as they have money.
“In each and every clinic there is a security guard, ask yourself how do these people get out of the yard with pills from the clinic and how do they access the clinic medication,” said Zibaya.
The City said the unlicensed sale of medication had to be reported to the Saps.
“SAPS may return these to any government or municipal pharmacy for appropriate destruction.
“Only premises licensed with the National Department of Health; registered with the South African Pharmacy Council (SAPC) and compliant with the rules relating to Good Pharmacy Practice may store and sell medicines of a scheduled nature.
“And only persons registered with the SAPC as a pharmacist or Post Basic Pharmacist assistant may dispense these medicines from compliant premises.
“In terms of medication dispensed by City facilities, these become the property and responsibility of the patient once dispensed,” said the City.
Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) coordinator Neliswa Nkwali said: “This will affect the lives of patients in many ways, one of which is patient safety because Tramadol is a scheduled drug that is only approved by a doctor. Now you find it from the hawkers that are not even aware of prescriptions. Treatment should be kept at specifically 25 percent Celsius, but those sold by hawkers are affected by sun and rain which makes them unsafe for use.”
Provincial Health department spokesperson Maret Lesch condemned the unauthorized sale of medication and urged the public to be careful.
“Please do not obtain any form of a pharmaceutical medication from unauthorized suppliers and without a valid prescription.
“Western Cape Government Health facilities strictly monitor the movement of medication in and from facilities.
“Each pharmacy or medicine room is a controlled environment where only pharmacists and pharmacy support staff may enter and leave, by means of a swipe card or biometric security system.
“Security staff at facilities have the right to request all staff including pharmacy staff to search their bags on a random basis as long as each person’s privacy is maintained and the search is conducted according to Provincial access and egress policy.
“Facilities may also have equipment that can pick up items on the person of an individual who walks through a low dose X-ray machine. The security guards will then conduct a search as per protocol,” said Lesch
The South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) spokesperson Yuveng Gounden said Sahpra could not comment on the matter yet until received more details and were afforded an opportunity to investigate this matter.