Good day Neil
Thank you for the questions. I will share my experience as a Pharmacist who has practised in both the public sector in Zimbabwe.
"To what extent does the packaging of medicines meet people's information needs? What if the patient does not read or speak the language used on the packaging?"
In the private sector setting and in a few of the public sector facilities, specialised pharmaceutical software is used to create labels for medicines that are dispensed and it provides the instructions and special warnings in English.
For non-prescription medicines instructions are written on the packages in English.
The local language instructions are given to the patient at the point of dispensing. Trained pharmacy and dispensary assistants and nurses assist the pharmacist in giving out information to the patient.
A gap still exists in terms of household remedies which the patient can buy directly from supermarkets and other retail outlets. The patient has to figure out how to use the medicine from the instructions on the package. However, a new line of retail outlets called Health Shops which is only allowed to stock Household Remedies is growing and these can assist in covering this gap if manned by trained personnel. Also, pharmacies do not charge a fee for providing information hence some community pharmacies do provide guidance on medicines purchased elsewhere by the client.
The requirements for getting permission and registering a medicine to be sold in Zimbabwe is approved by the Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe. From the perspective of the distributor it may be expensive to register medicines with packages with multiple local languages. Some local suppliers have made efforts to fill this gap as a number of locally manufactured remedies now have the local languages. For imports however, this has not been the case.
In my opinion there is a need to look at the whole supply chain and determine the full costs of a client using medicines incorrectly because they cannot understand the instructions. Research is required to generate scientific evidence in this area. This gap can be addressed from a regulatory perspective, advocacy from patient groups and from ensuring that persons interacting with patients are adequately trained and have continuous on the job training as the field of medicine is dynamic.
Program Manager, Non Communicable Diseases
Ministry of Health and Child Care
Fourth street/Central Avenue
P O BOX CY 1122
Skype id : Venus Mushininga
HIFA profile: Venus Mushininga is a pharmacist with the Ministry of Health and Childcare in Zimbabwe. She is a founder and President of the Zimbabwe Society of Oncology Pharmacy and the Zimbabewan delegate to the European Society of Oncology Pharmacy. Professional interests: Oncology, Dissemination of information through to Health Professionals and the public, Research. She is co-coordinator of the HIFA working group on information for Prescribers and Users of Medicines.
Email: vmushininga AT gmail.com