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Official calls for stringent penalties to deter operation of illegal pharmacies

An official with the Pharmacy and Poisons Board has called for stiff penalties to curb establishment and operation of illegal chemists.

The Board’s central Region Regulator Coordinator Dr. Tom Mwangi has observed that operation of illegal pharmacies poses a health risk since members of the public can get wrong medication from the premises.

The unregistered chemists, Mwangi explained, are operated by unprofessional personnel with likelihood to disburse wrong medicine combinations or sell expired drugs to unsuspecting customers.

The coordinator stated disbursement of medicine is crucial and needs a person who is well trained saying wrong medication is a health hazard.

He observed that the majority of illegal pharmacies are established in rural and in informal settlement areas where accessibility is a challenge.

In the central region, Mwangi noted, most illegal pharmacies are found in Kiambu County considering its proximity to Nairobi and presence of several informal settlements.

The coordinator added that last financial year, in the central region, the board closed 131 unregistered pharmacies and made 93 arrests.

“Cases of some of those arrested have been concluded with culprits being fined between Sh. 10,000 and Sh. 250, 000,” he noted.

Mwangi said the Board has been carrying out regular inspections to ensure only chemists with required documents are allowed to operate.

He, however, expressed concern about light penalties awarded to those found guilty of operating illegal chemists.

“According to the law, a person found guilty should pay a fine of an amount not exceeding Sh. 1 million or a jail term of not exceeding three years. The fine is sometimes quite lenient and the culprit may opt to go back and continue operating a chemist illegally,” Mwangi told KNA on Tuesday.

Mwangi, acknowledging the continued support the board is getting from the judiciary, appealed for more severe penalties to deter unscrupulous business people from operating unregistered chemists.

Members of the public, the coordinator said they can affirm if a chemist is registered by checking the list of registered pharmacies from the board’s website.

“Registered chemists must display a safety banner from the board at its premises and also members of the public can confirm if a pharmacy is registered by sending the safety code of the facility to 21031,” he added.

Mwangi called for collaboration with all stakeholders to ensure unregistered chemists are restrained from operations saying those who need to establish chemists’ business should get the required permits from the board.

By Bernard Munyao

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