A study was conducted between December 2003 to February 2004 on 100 randomly selected community pharmacies located within the Klang Valley in Malaysia. The simulated-patient method was used in this study to evaluate the response of community pharmacists to the presentation of acute back pain.

Of the 95 times when the consultation ended with the purchase of medication(s), 55.8% labelled the dispensed medication (53 cases). Information provided on the labels of the medications dispensed for back pain is shown in Figure 1. The percentage in Figure 1 exceeded 100% as more that one type of information could be included in the label of each medication. Dose and frequency of medication to be taken were the most frequently stated information on the labels, followed by the route of administration, timing and name of the medication. The inclusion of the duration of therapy and its expiry date in the medication labels was not so common. Of the 42 medication with no label, 13 were dispensed in its original packaging, 28 in strips and 1 medication was dispensed as loose tablets.

The dose and frequency of use were not stated in 13 medications dispensed as its original packaging. In addition, 29 medications dispensed in its strip forms and one as loose tablets did not have any instruction for using the medication. Of the 60 medications without the name of the medication on a specific label, 13 were dispensed in its original packaging while 43 were dispensed in its strip forms where the name of medication was printed on the back of the strip but four medications that were dispensed as loose tablets in plastic envelopes also did not have the name of the medication.

Out of 95 cases where Poison C medications were purchased, only 5 (5.3%) were recorded in a book. The recording of medication was not applicable in 5 of the consultations where no purchase was made.

The results demonstrate that community pharmacists are not labeling non-prescription medications that they dispensed properly. Four of the pharmacists had dispensed non-prescription medications with no identification of the medication at all. Medications dispensed in their original strip packaging should also be properly labeled. The name of the mediations may be printed on the strips but these would become illegible as the tablets or capsules are ejected from the strips. In addition, the strips do not have any instructions for using the medications. This may lead to medication errors as the customer has to rely on his/her own memory to take the medication. Pharmacists have advocated the importance of labeling medications properly including the name of the medication to ease identification. However, it appears that the pharmacists themselves should also be more conscientious in labeling the medications that they dispensed more professionally.