| 18 May, 2017

Saudi ministry toughens conditions for sale of controlled medicines

A customer wears a medical mask as he buys it at a pharmacy in Taif November 1, 2014. 
REUTERS/Mohamed Alhwaity

A customer wears a medical mask as he buys it at a pharmacy in Taif November 1, 2014. REUTERS/Mohamed Alhwaity

REUTERS/Mohamed Alhwaity

18 May 2017

JEDDAH – The Ministry of Health has instructed private pharmacies not to distribute mental health medicines for patients outside mental hospitals or patients of private clinics because allowing patients to handle these medications by themselves would be dangerous.

However, pharmacies can give the medicines to the patient’s parents or children or close relatives, Al-Watan Arabic daily reported quoting a ministerial source. “The person who receives the medicines should produce his/her identity,” the source added.

The patient should give a written undertaking with his signature for authorizing his relative to purchase the medicines on his behalf and the pharmacy should keep the signed document.

“If there is a change in the prescription, the previous medication should be returned and the pharmacist should record it in a special form,” the source said.

“The person who receives the medicine on the basis of a new prescription should present a medical report on the patient, attested by a reputable hospital,” he added.

Relatives have to present new reports about the patient’s condition every six months.

Dr. Atiyyah Al-Zahrani, a psychological consultant, emphasized the need to toughen supervision on private pharmacies and impose punishment on them if they violate regulations, especially when distributing mental health medicines. “I have noticed that some pharmacies give medications such as antidepressants, anti-anxiety and anti-psychotics to the patients directly,” Al-Zahrani told Al-Watan.

He said most pharmacies sell these expensive medications to make money and they don’t ask for a doctor’s prescription before selling them.

Dr. Ahmed Hafiz, consultant mental medicine at Al-Amal Hospital in Madinah, said there are some mental health medications that come under intensive supervision of health authorities.

“Pharmacists should be careful while distributing such medicines. They should not give them to patients without a doctor’s prescription, which is written in less than 15 days,” he said.

The Health Ministry has selected three to four pharmacies in every region to distribute such medications, which also come under the supervision of security agencies, Hafiz said. These medicines include Valium and Xanax and other pills used to treat tension and anxiety.

“Pharmacies should not distribute them without a doctor’s prescription because many patients, even if they are educated, do not know their dangerous effects,” Hafiz said. He stressed the need to punish the owner of the pharmacy and the pharmacist who sells such medicines without following the rules.

© The Saudi Gazette 2017