Pharmacists Unaware They Dispense Unapproved Prescription Drugs

By (BI) Susanna Daniel

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Medical Marketing Research, Inc. announced the results of a nationwide, random-sample survey of 500 U.S. retail pharmacists concerning their dispensing habits for pharmaceutical products.

This survey was designed to specifically measure pharmacists' awareness that they may be dispensing products that have never undergone the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval process.

One of the most surprising findings was that 91 percent of retail pharmacists surveyed believed that all medication available for dispensing with a doctor's prescription had been FDA approved. In fact, the FDA estimates that, in the United States, as many as several thousand drug products are marketed illegally, without required FDA approval.

The survey, commissioned by Mutual Pharmaceutical Company/AR Scientific, was carried out between July 7 and July 17, 2006.

Additional findings addressed the understanding by pharmacists of a specific unapproved product -- quinine sulfate.

Quinine sulfate is a widely- used treatment for malaria. Although the first FDA-approved formulation of quinine sulfate just came onto the market in July 2006, pharmacists continue dispensing formulations that have never undergone FDA evaluation.

In addition:

-- 89 percent of pharmacists surveyed believe that all of the quinine sulfate products they dispense are FDA approved

-- 33 percent of pharmacists either do not know or do not believe that quinine sulfate has adverse events related to blood levels

-- 31 percent of pharmacists either do not know or do not believe that quinine sulfate has a specific, potentially life-threatening side effect of QT prolongation

-- 36 percent of pharmacists do not know that the FDA specifically states that accumulation of quinine places the elderly at greater risk of adverse events

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