As the year-end deadline for application of Good Pharmacy Practice (GPP) standards nears, only one-fourth of the pharmacies in the city have achieved it.
For the last three years since the Health Ministry issued its decision (No 11/2007/QD-BYT), HCM City has taken several steps to implement it, but so far just 927 of 3,667 medical establishments have succeeded in applying the GPP standards.
The 927 establishments comprise 91 hospitals, 118 enterprises and 836 residential pharmacies.
"The main reasons for the slow pace is a shortage of professionals in the health sector to guide, train and conduct checks," said Dr Pham Khanh Phong Lan, deputy director of the municipal Health Department.
She told the Sai Gon Giai Phong (Liberated Sai Gon) newspaper that three years was not long enough to make a full assessment, but the application of GPP had started changing the quality of pharmacy system.
"At first, many people doubted the necessity of the GPP, but after three years, there is an important change in awareness. People accept that it is a must for the industry," she said.
In promoting GPP application, the city's health sector focused first on pharmacies in hospitals and enterprises to ensure quality and price of essential medicines.
At present, the department is focusing on firms engaged in wholesale and retail distribution of drugs.
In 2009, there were 752 pharmacies found violating regulations, including 20 that had the GPP certification.
"GPP is the starting point for managing the pharmacy system and regular investigation is the best way to maintain quality," Lan said.
After January 1, 2011, pharmacies that haven't met GPP requirements would be closed or forced to curtail their operations depending on the final decision from the Health Ministry, she said.