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The Pill House

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Pill House or the pharmacy forms an integral part of the healthcare system. Pharmacies with well-organised practice can go a long way to ensure quality healthcare for the patient. In the fourth of a series of six articles, Organisation of Pharmaceutical Producers of India (OPPI) reveals more

In most of the household in India, it is common to order the groceries from our trusted kirana store. The youngsters of the household shop online and order from their trusted shopping site. Medicines are no different. It is not uncommon to have the elders of the house order their medicines from their trusted neighbourhood pharmacy. This makes the Pill House or the pharmacy an integral part of the healthcare system. Pharmacies with well-organised practice can go a long way to ensure quality healthcare for the patient.

Good Pharmacy Practice Guidelines 2002 proposed to establish standards for practice of pharmacy as a profession in India. It proposes standard guidelines that cover the premises and facilities, systems and processes, pharmacovigilance, and practices such as inventory management, prescription handling, and much more. These practices become increasingly relevant as the Pill House dispenses medicine to the ultimate consumer- the patient, most often.

Storage of pills and storage management becomes critical. The products storage area, in pharmacies, should be protected from exposure to excessive light and heat. Ambient temperature in the pharmacy should be maintained within the stipulated range to prevent deterioration of medicines. The refrigerated storage facilities should be inspected regularly for products at cold temperature.

Pharmacies are meant to have neat, catalogued and labeled shelves for storing medicines systematically. Adequate provisions should be available for storing various medicines at prescribed temperature conditions. Prescription drugs should be kept out of reach of the customer. Drug and dosage form that require special care while dispensing (e.g. drugs specified under the schedule X, Narcotic drug and Psychotropic Substances Act and some other CNS drug etc.) should be kept under lock and key. Shelves should be checked at a predetermined periodicity to ensure that expired drugs are not dispensed to patients and are kept out of reach. Expired drugs should be returned to the supplier or destroyed as per in-house procedure, at the earliest.

Health authorities like the NHS in the UK have laid down clear guidelines on these points, including what should be done when an error is discovered. A March 2017 NHS document mentions that a separate refrigerator should be used for medicines and food. Pathological test specimens should never be stored in the same place. Besides, maximum and minimum temperatures in the fridge and in the storage, should be recorded once daily, since medicines intended to be kept cool should not be frozen.
Likewise, the medicines labeled as inflammable should be kept away from open flames such as cookers and burners and any equipment that may emit electrical sparks.

Another important factor is child-proofing. Medicines intended for adult use, particularly prescription drugs and controlled substances should be kept away from children, in tightly screwed bottles.
Medical gases such as oxygen cylinders (even found in people’s homes these days) always require staff with special training to handle them. The cylinders must be properly secured so that they don’t topple over and sustain damage. Special records need to be kept about the storage and administration of Controlled Substances, including narcotics and some varieties of pain medication.

Today’s pharmacists are supported by powerful, user-friendly pharmacy management systems that can navigate the complexities of dispensing, inventory management, and point-of-sale functions. The Pill House is the last leg of the journey that a medicinal product follows from the factory floor to the patient for whom it is intended. Of the several stages in this journey, each is equally important – as management gurus are fond of saying, “a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.” It is only when the entire chain is completed that the real purpose of the pharmaceutical industry is served.

Issued in public interest by OPPI
Watch this space for the last in the KYP series- The Rotten Pill

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