In a nationwide test of 20 pharmacy chains, clients were able to obtain prescription drugs from most of them – all without a doctor’s note, according to a report from daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on Tuesday.
Test clients for the fall 2008 study were not regular customers at the pharmacies, all of which belong to the Federal Union of German Associations of Pharmacists (ABDA). In each case, the test customer explained to the pharmacist why they needed a prescription drug, despite being unable to provide a prescription from a doctor.
Test customers requested the stomach medications Riopan and Omeprazol, and in 25 percent of the pharmacies tested, the medication was provided despite a number of dangerous possible side effects.
“The pharmacist just said that I should bring in the prescription later,” one of the test customers noted.
In tests involving other medications, such as thyroid medication L-Thyroxin, only six pharmacies refused to give out the prescription, while the others did not ask for the prescription note.
“The pharmacist offered me a pack of 50 pills without hesitation,” one of the test customers told the paper. “She grabbed the package out of the drawer and just handed it to me.”
For female test customers who requested the pill, saying their gynaecologists were on vacation, only eight of 20 pharmacies insisted on prescription notes.
“I try to determine which situation the customer is really in,” one pharmacist told the paper, adding that if a product had “potential for danger” or “possibility for abuse,” he would not sell it without a prescription.
Despite the study results, there has been no public discussion of the illegal practice, the paper said, emphasising that it’s not a problem customers would likely complain about.
“Naturally, it’s something that has a certain element of political explosiveness,” a source from the legal department of one of the state pharmacy offices said.
Meanwhile the state pharmacy office in Baden-Württemberg reacted to the news of more tests planned in the Heilbronn area in with a “president’s letter” to all area pharmacies. Test customers’ profiles were described in detail, though the letter added: “We ask you to treat every patient or client as if they were a test customer.”