The government should promote a “single-track system” for the separation of prescribing and dispensing medicine, Tainan Pharmacists’ Association president Wu Chen-ming (吳振名) said.
National Health Insurance (NHI) partner pharmacists have helped the government in many programs, but most people — even some government officials — are unaware of them, Wu said.
These include collecting and destroying leftover and abandoned medications to prevent environmental pollution, and promoting campaigns against drugs, smoking and betel nut use, as well as medication safety in schools and communities, he said.
Pharmacies play a “very important role” in promoting public health, he said.
As of June 20 last year, there were 31,186 pharmacists in Taiwan, 30.23 percent of whom worked at community pharmacies, association data showed.
There are about 8,000 pharmacies in Taiwan, Wu said.
From 2007 to 2012, the number of pharmacies partnered with the NHI system increased from 4,061 to 5,284, he said.
The growth slowed afterward and was “almost semi-stagnant” from 2015 to 2018, Wu said, adding that in the period, the number of partner pharmacies increased from 5,950 to 6,224.
Each year, Taiwan recruits about 1,100 pharmacy students, he said.
The slowing growth might suggest that the government has failed to promote the separation of prescribing and dispensing, which might have caused pharmacists to become hesitant to partner with the NHI system, Wu said.
If “single-track” separation of prescribing and dispensing cannot be implemented, the number of partner pharmacies might fall from about 6,000, as younger pharmacists are unwilling to enter communities and open NHI partner pharmacies, he said.
Community pharmacies’ assistance in the sale of masks amid a COVID-19 epidemic allowed Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) to say in an interview that “Taiwan’s real-name system for the sale of masks is the only one in the world that has succeeded,” Wu said.
Many pharmacists have accepted an increasing number of masks to be sold at their establishments and adjusted their operations to comply with the government’s changes to the way masks are sold, he said.
“They can only swallow their grievances and complaints,” Wu said, adding that the importance and function of community pharmacies is now second only to borough offices.
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