Dis-Chem Pharmacies has welcomed the government’s move to soon allow South African pharmacists to prescribe and dispense HIV medication, including PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) and first-line anti-retrovirals (ARVs), without a doctor’s prescription.
Dischem said that the PIMART (Pharmacist-Initiated Management of Antiretroviral Treatment) programme would improve HIV treatment and prevention therapy accessibility for under-reached people by making use of health-care services that were readily available in local community pharmacies. The government’s new programme is the first of its kind in the world.
Tanya Ponter, executive manager for Dis-Chem, responsible for dispensaries across the group, said that the pharmacy retail chain agreed with the govenment’s decision to allow the dispensing of ARVs without a doctor’s prescription.
“It’s long overdue that pharmacists are able to best use their clinical expertise to play a valuable role in contributing to ending the high burden of HIV in South Africa. Any endeavour that will serve to broaden the accessibility of treatment protocols to patients and which will support the fight against HIV infections and illness should be applauded by the broader medical community,” she said.
Dischem said that the easy accessibly of local pharmacies would make it easier for HIV-related treatment and care to be available to people as they are open after hours and on weekends. The group said that pharmacies also provided patients with a greater level of anonymity and are less stigmatising.
“Anyone who has HIV symptoms or who tests positive for HIV will qualify for this treatment. This initiative aligns with Dis-Chem’s philosophy of prioritising its primary health-care mandate and increasing its focus on providing health-care access to broader segments of the population,” she told IOL.
Dis-Chem employs at least one pharmacist and a nurse in each of its pharmacies that have completed the PIMART training. Dis-Chem’s clinic department has submitted almost 300 applications for the permit, of which 30% have already been approved.