Diagnosis and treatment of presumed STIs at Mexican pharmacies: survey results from a random sample of Mexico City pharmacy attendants
- Correspondence to: Charlotte Ellertson, Ibis Reproductive Health, 2 Brattle Square, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA;
- Accepted 22 January 2003
Objectives: People in developing countries often seek medical advice for common ailments from pharmacies. As one example, pharmacists routinely diagnose and treat symptomatic sexually transmitted infections (STIs). We aimed to assess the quality of advice provided in Mexico City pharmacies by presenting hypothetical STI related syndromes and recording pharmacy attendants’ suggested diagnoses and treatments.
Methods: We interviewed the first available attendant in each of a 5% random sample of Mexico City’s pharmacies. We inquired about the training, age, and experience of the attendant and about the typical number of clients coming for treatment of suspected STIs. After considering three hypothetical case studies, attendants recommended diagnoses, treatments, and, sometimes, physician follow up.
Results: Most Mexico City “pharmacists” are actually clerks, with trained pharmacists rarely available on the premises. The average pharmacy attendant was 32 years old, with a median of 5 years’ experience at that pharmacy, but very limited (if any) training. 62% reported seeing 10 or more clients with genital or vaginal infections per month. Depending on the case study, attendants provided appropriate diagnoses in 0–12% of cases, recommended appropriate treatments in 12–16% of cases, and suggested physician follow up for 26–67% of cases.
Conclusions: In general, surveyed pharmacy personnel were unable to diagnose accurately or offer appropriate treatment advice when presented with classic, common STI symptoms. Given the volume of clients seeking advice from this source, training pharmacy attendants could significantly help to reduce the burden of disease associated with STIs in Mexico City.
- bacterial vaginosis
- herpes simplex virus
- sexually transmitted infection