BEIRUT: Pharmacy and drug groups discussed the spate of pharmacy attacks and robberies Monday with the chief of Lebanese Internal Security, Ashraf Rifi, asking Lebanese police to step up their presence around at-risk businesses.
Representatives from a youth against drug abuse organization and the Order of Pharmacists asked Rifi to increase security patrols and police cars and said they would do a better job of networking pharmacies together for security awareness.
Meeting members said that Rifi promised the organization leaders he would crack down on the criminal network of pharmacy robbers and that it would be stopped by the New Year. Rifi indicated the robberies were likely motivated by drugs.
“Some of the things we are going to implement are a crackdown by security forces, increasing patrols, police cars that might be parked near pharmacies,” said Joseph Charles Hawat, president of Jad, a youth against drugs organization.
Hawat said all pharmacies in Lebanon should have the option of joining a security network to provide extra protection. Some municipalities already have these organizations but most do not, he said.
Participants at the meeting said Rifi had already informed municipal police to increase their protection of pharmacies and the group decided to encourage additional security camera use outside of shops.
Ziad Nassour, president of the order of pharmacies, said the issue needed a public rejection of the criminal actions taking place.
“We say no, the people, the officials the pharmacists, no to drugs no to all these things that are taking place in the country. We need a reaction from the people,” he said, adding that the attacks were more than just an isolated incident.
“We cannot continue to receive these blows and stay silent over them,” Nassour said. “We care about moving forward especially in fields of raising awareness. And most importantly to catch the criminals and punish them, not let them off the hook,” he said.
In recent months armed men robbed a pharmacy in the southern suburb of Shiyah and made off with around LL80 million. About a month later armed and masked men entered Farma Saad Pharmacy in Hadath during the day and robbed its owner at gunpoint.
Pharmacists closed their shops for 15 minutes on Dec. 5 to protest a recent spike in robberies and attacks against pharmacies and their owners.
At the meeting, internal security participants also talked about the other major issues facing the Lebanese drug industry.
They said there has been a rise in the incidence of illegal steroid use as well as the problem of a vast network of clinics that are not run by health care professionals. Nassour said the clinics often offer drugs that are not allowed to be distributed from clinics. He said there are around 1,200 clinics that are not properly monitored by the state.
Clinics should not have drugs except those included in the list by World Health Organization, Nassour said. “This issue needs to be stopped because it causes dangers to people’s health – giving out incorrect drugs,” he said.
Nassour said many of these issued would be solved by the standardized prescription form that the Health Ministry introduced last week.
The ministry called for the form to be the only way to receive a prescriptions, and said the registration of form numbers would allow policing of unsafe health practices.