The private retail drug shops market in Bangladesh is largely unregulated and unaccountable, giving rise to irrational use of drugs and high Out-of-pocket expenditure on health. These shops are served by salespersons with meagre or no formal training in dispensing.
This facility-based cross-sectional study was undertaken to investigate how the drug shops currently operate vis-a-vis the regulatory regime including dispensing practices of the salespersons, for identifying key action points to develop an accredited model for Bangladesh. About 90 rural and 21 urban retail drug shops from seven divisions were included in the survey. The salespersons were interviewed for relevant information, supplemented by qualitative data on perceptions of the catchment community as well as structured observation of client-provider interactions from a sub-sample.
In 76% of the shops, the owner and the salesperson was the same person, and >90% of these were located within 30 min walking distance from a public sector health facility. The licensing process was perceived to be a cumbersome, lengthy, and costly process. Shop visit by drug inspectors were brief, wasn't structured, and not problem solving. Only 9% shops maintained a stock register and 10% a drug sales record. Overall, 65% clients visited drug shops without a prescription. Forty-nine percent of the salespersons had no formal training in dispensing and learned the trade through apprenticeship with fellow drug retailers (42%), relatives (18%), and village doctors (16%) etc. The catchment population of the drug shops mostly did not bother about dispensing training, drug shop licensing and buying drugs without prescription. Observed client-dispenser interactions were found to concentrate mainly on financial transaction, unless, the client pro-actively sought advice regarding the use of the drug.
Majority of the drug shops studied are run by salespersons who have informal 'training' through apprenticeship. Visiting drug shops without a prescription, and dispensing without counseling unless pro-actively sought by the client, was very common. The existing process is discouraging for the shop owners to seek license, and the shop inspection visits are irregular, unstructured and punitive. These facts should be considered while designing an accredited model of drug shop for Bangladesh.