South African Journal of Clinical Nutrition

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Dispensing of vitamin products by retail pharmacies in South Africa: Implications for dietitians

Ilse Truter, Liana Steenkamp


Objective: The objective of this study was to analyse the dispensing patterns of vitamins (Anatomical Therapeutic Chemical (ATC) group A11) over a one-year period in a group of community pharmacies in South Africa.

Design and setting: A retrospective drug utilisation study was conducted on community pharmacy electronic dispensing records in South Africa recorded in 2013. Outcome measures: All products for ATC subgroup A11 were extracted and analysed.

Results: A total of 164 233 vitamin products were dispensed to 84 805 patients (62.64% female patients). Males received on average 2.09 (SD = 2.63) vitamin products per year, compared to 1.84 (SD = 2.13) products for females. Ergocalciferol (A11CC01) was the most often dispensed (37.48% of all vitamin products), followed by plain Vitamin B-complex products (A11EA00) accounting for 32.77%. Ergocalciferol (vitamin D2) is only available on prescription (50 000 IU tablets or 50 000 IU/ml oily drops) in South Africa. Tablets were the preferred dosage form (62.84% of products). Most injections were for Vitamin B1 or Vitamin B combination products.

Conclusion: Ergocalciferol and injectable vitamins have recently been rescheduled to prescription-only; it is probable that this has impacted on the usage of these products. It is important to monitor future vitamin supplementation behaviour in community pharmacies since pharmacies are selling many of these products and pharmacists can, by counselling patients, determine the reasons for the use of these products. Furthermore, should dietitians and nutritionists choose to work with this captive audience, supplementation patterns can be monitored to develop and implement appropriate awareness campaigns. Further studies to explore these baseline results are recommended.

Keywords: dispensing patterns, drug utilisation study, ergocalciferol, retail pharmacies, vitamins
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