22 Oct 1997

22 October 1997

Pharmacy Amendment Bill

The Pharmacy Amendment Bill aims to increase the range of outlets at
which medicines can be dispensed and to abolish the monopoly that pharmacists
have over the ownership of pharmacies.

Under present legislation, only registered pharmacists are permitted
to own pharmacies. This gives pharmacists a monopoly on the ownership of
pharmacies, which is where the majority of medicines in South Africa are

The New System

Under the Pharmacy Amendment Bill, any person, corporation and body
corporate will be allowed to own and carry on a pharmacy business, subject
to the requirement that the pharmacy business is under the continuous personal
supervision of a registered pharmacist.

In effect, this not only means that anyone can own a pharmacy and employ
a pharmacist to run it, but that other outlets can open pharmacy businesses
on their premises. In urban areas, supermarkets like Pick`n`Pay, Shoprite
Checkers and OK Bazaar, or shops like Clicks, would be allowed, under the
Bill, to open pharmacy counters or sections within their stores, as long
as these pharmacy sections are licensed and supervised by a registered

Crucially, in rural communities, where there is currently limited access
to established pharmacies, this Bill will allow non-pharmacists to open
up pharmacy outlets and provide pharmacy services to rural people.

Regulating Pharmacies

Pharmacies would be strictly regulated and supervised by a new South
African Pharmacy Council, a new body proposed in the Bill. The controls,
which will ensure safety and quality, include that:

  • anyone wishing to carry out a business as a pharmacy must apply for
    a licence to the Director General of the Department of Health
  • the licence can be suspended or cancelled by the Director General
  • the business of the pharmacy must be conducted under the personal supervision
    of a pharmacist registered with the Council
  • the registered pharmacist will be responsible to the Council for any
    act performed by the pharmacy (unless responsibility rests with another
    registered pharmacist employed in the same capacity)
  • the Council will have the right to inspect the premises in which the
    pharmacy business is being carried out
  • any pharmacist who has been deregistered for unprofessional conduct
    will not be permitted a licence to open a pharmacy as a non-pharmacist.

South African Pharmacy Council

The South African Pharmacy Council will replace the Interim Pharmacy
Council. Its functions will be:

  • to assist in health promotion
  • to advise the Minister and others on pharmacy-related matters
  • to promote pharmaceutical care in both the public and private sectors
  • to safeguard the rights of the public to acceptable standards of pharmacy
    practice in both the public and private sectors
  • to establish, develop maintain and control universally-acceptable standards
    of pharmaceutical education and training, registration, professional conduct
    and control
  • to fulfil its responsibilities in a transparent manner
  • to enhance and maintain the prestige, dignity and integrity of the
    pharmacy profession.

The South African Pharmacy Council will be charged with the responsibility
of licensing pharmacists, and for recommending to the Director-General
of Health to whom pharmacy licenses should be granted.

The Bill also extends the composition of the Council to provide for
provincial representation and for non-pharmacists (such as a legal expert),
to enhance the scope of the Council and to give a real voice to communities.

Benefits of the Bill

The benefits of this Bill include:

  • an increase in the number of outlets able to dispense medicines - which
    will improve public access to medicines
  • increased competition - which should reduce prices to consumers
  • increased job opportunities - among pharmacists and pharmacy assistants,
    who will be employed by the new pharmacy outlets which will be established
  • increased opportunity for emerging entrepreneurs to establish pharmacy
    businesses in historically disadvantaged areas.

Key Political Messages

The Health Minister is extending access to pharmacy services by breaking
up the pharmacists monopoly over the ownership of pharmacies.

South Africans will get the same access to pharmacy services as is already
enjoyed by people in Britain, America and many other countries throughout
the world.

While increasing flexibility and improving access, the Health Minister
is also improving quality, ensuring safety and the introducing more effective
regulation of pharmacy services.