In Uganda, private pharmacies and drug shops are important sources of drugs for the majority of the population. In addition to selling drugs, these outlets often serve as primary sources of information about illness and drug therapy. However, the appropriateness of dispensing by staff in these drug outlets has been found to be suboptimal. Yet there has been no study documenting the determinants that underlie the dispensing pattern at these outlets. This study evaluated counter attendants' training background, their knowledge of acute respiratory infections (ARI), and their reported behaviour in the management of ARI in order to identify factors associated with dispensing behaviours.
This descriptive study was conducted in Kampala District, Uganda and used a cross-sectional survey research design to analyse the practice of 197 drug outlets including 28 pharmacies and 169 drug stores.
Counter attendants' training background; their knowledge of the causes, signs and symptoms of ARI; their perception of the dangers of ARI; and the drugs and advice offered for the management of mild and severe ARI.
Majority of the counter attendants had medical or pharmacy training. Most of them were nurses. The attendants' workload was generally low. High levels of self-medication among clients were reported at the outlets. Staff at a management level had low knowledge of the aetiology, signs and symptoms, and dangers of ARI. Prescribing an antibiotic was found to be the usual practice for managing ARI cases. Counter attendants at those outlets seldom gave advice or referrals for ARI cases. In particular, patient demand was a main barrier to appropriate dispensing. Strategies suggested by attendants for improving rational dispensing were to educate the public, provide training for the attendants, and re-enforce government supervision of drug outlets.
This study identified several self-reported inappropriate behaviours in the outlets. The formal training background and workload of counter attendants at drug shops and pharmacies were not found to be important contributors to irrational prescribing. The results of this study suggest that a combination of regulatory and educational interventions may yield to improvement in counter attendants' practices in private drug outlets.