No prescription needed at this pharmacy

The boxes of medication bought from Lakefield Pharmacy by the City Times, without prescriptions.

The City Times recently bought Schedule Five sleeping tablets and antidepressants at the pharmacy, after being told by members of the public that the pharmacy is still selling prescription medication without asking for prescriptions.

Abram Cello, owner of the pharmacy, did not comment when asked how the City Times was able to buy prescription medication at the pharmacy without the use of prescriptions.

Previously, Cello said: “I’m normally not at the pharmacy, but we only sell what we are authorised to sell. I’m not aware of any other things that could have caused problems.”

“I’m also going to check and investigate, because I don’t know whether the staff is selling it, but not to my knowledge.”

Following the initial article, the City Times was soon told the pharmacy continued selling prescription medication without asking for prescriptions.


Going undercover

On Tuesday (April 11) and Wednesday (April 12), the City Times entered the pharmacy and bought two different types of medication.

On Tuesday, two journalists went in asking for Ivedal, Schedule Five sleeping tablets, which is what was bought during the previous venture by the City Times.

The attendant at the back said the pharmacy no longer sells Ivedal, but gave two alternatives to choose from.

As I stood there, with my colleague recording a video on her cellphone, the attendant asked what she was doing.

Watch the video of the Mylan Zolpidem purchase below

He was hesitant to produce the box of medication, telling his colleagues we looked suspicious.

Eventually he handed the box over, which contained Mylan Zolpidem (10mg).

Mylan Zolpidem is a Schedule Five sleeping tablet, according to several Benoni psychiatrists.

It was taken to the counter where it was paid for with cash.

When I asked the register attendant for a receipt, which was received the last time the City Times bought Ivedal, she said the pharmacy doesn’t give out slips unless you have a prescription.

The following day, a colleague of ours went in with a hidden camera on her person.

She bought Cilift, a Schedule Five antidepressant medication, and was also not asked to provide a prescription.

Watch the video of the Cilift purchase below


Benoni psychiatrists

According to Benoni psychiatrists Dr Eugene Allers, from Allers & Grundling Inc and Dr Thabo Rangaka, from Sunshine Hospital in Actonville, Mylan Zolpidem and Cilift are both Schedule Five medicines.

Rangaka, who is the past president of the South African Society of Psychiatrists said: “Cilift is such a high schedule because its side effects can be potentially harmful.”

Allers said the same and added that Mylan Zolpidem can be habit forming, hence the high schedule.

Allers previously said this about Lakefield Pharmacy: “Many of my patients go there and get pills without a prescription.”

Dr Manie Wessels, a psychiatrist at the Netcare Linmed Hospital, previously said his patients had bought from the pharmacy on various occasions.

“Years ago I submitted a report to the Pharmacy Council about Lakefield Pharmacy,” he said.

Wessels also confirmed that Mylan Zolpidem and Cilift are Schedule Five medicines.

“Any medication which acts on the brain, including calming, concentration, sleeping, epilepsy and antidepressant medication, can only be bought with prescriptions, as it can be dangerous – the brain is a sensitive organ,” he added.

“I feel discouraged when hearing about this pharmacy; I’ve been trying to bring it to people’s attention for years, but nothing happens.

“Even the Pharmacy Council, which should sit up when hearing of this, has done nothing.”


Other side of the coin

Following the publication of the previous article, the City Times received calls, letters and comment from people regarding the pharmacy.

Many felt the pharmacy provides a necessary service to people who need medication but cannot afford to continually visit doctors for prescriptions.

A letter was sent to the City Times by a woman, who could not be named as she could not be reached.

The letter read: “I and many friends have been customers (at Lakefield Pharmacy) for many years.”

“If you do not have medical aid, it is very difficult to get medication and treatment.

“A limited pension does not allow for R450 to visit the doctor.”

The City Times has forwarded the information to the police.


We received many comments on Facebook following the publishing of the initial article:

Susan Bates Roberts said: “I’ve just read the article on the Lakefield Pharmacy – I agree that dispensing scheduled drugs without a script is wrong but I don’t know how anyone can be blamed for someone’s addiction.”

“If the ‘user’ cannot get what he/she wants from one place they will get it from somewhere else.

“Addicts and their families need to stop blaming other people.”

Get the latest news, sport and entertainment hot off the press:

Posted by Benoni City Times on Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Jeanette Gardiner said: “With the price of doctor’s appointments nowadays, it’s no wonder people would rather get their repeat scripts directly from a pharmacy.” “If you telephone a doctor and ask for a script to be sent through, you will pay the full consultation fee.”

VIDEO: The online coverage of this week's print exclusive story.

Posted by Benoni City Times on Thursday, 9 February 2017

Shellene Marshall said: “There is a reason for scheduling drugs. As Susan says people cannot be blamed for others addiction but they can be blamed for selling scheduled drugs without a prescription.”

“It is against the law and with such the pharmacist is guilty of committing a crime.”


How do the Schedules work?

Griffith Molewa, the manager of law enforcement within the Department of Health, explained how scheduling in South Africa, in terms of medication, works:

The Medicines Control Council (MCC) assesses the risk-to-benefit ratio of the active ingredients in each medicine and then determines the scheduling status of that medicine.

Scheduling status also determines the access to the medicine.

• Schedule Zero may be sold in open shops.

• Schedules One and Two are pharmacy over-the-counter products. This means they can only be sold in a pharmacy. No prescription is required.

• Schedules Three to Six are sold only in pharmacies on presentation of a prescription issued by an authorised prescriber.


Watch the previous video, during which we bought Ivedal, here.


Also read:

You can use dagga at home, rules the WC High Court

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