Pharmacy workers in Bangladesh play an important role in managing pregnancy complications by dispensing, counselling and selling drugs to pregnant women and their families. This study examined pharmacy workers’ drug knowledge and practice for pre-eclampsia and eclampsia (PE/E) management, including antihypertensives and anticonvulsants, and determine factors associated with their knowledge.
A cross-sectional survey with 382 pharmacy workers in public facilities (government) and private pharmacies and drug stores assessed their knowledge of antihypertensive and anticonvulsant drugs. ‘Pharmacy workers’ include personnel who work at pharmacies, pharmacists, family welfare visitors (FWVs), sub-assistant community medical officers (SACMOs), drug storekeepers. Exploratory and multivariate logistic models were used to describe association between knowledge of medicines used in pregnancy and demographic characteristics of pharmacy workers.
Overall, 53% pharmacy workers interviewed were drug store owners in private pharmacies while 27% FWVs/SACMOs, who are government service providers also work as drug prescribers and/or dispensers in public facility pharmacies. Majority of pharmacy workers had poor knowledge compared to correct knowledge on both antihypertensive (77.8% vs 22.3%; p < 0.001) and anticonvulsant drugs (MgSO4) (82.2% vs 17.8%; p < 0.001). Multivariate analysis showed SACMOs and FWVs were greater than 4 times more likely to have correct knowledge on anti-hypertensives (AOR = 4.2, 95% CI:1.3–12.3, P < 0.01) and anticonvulsant drugs (AOR = 4.9, 95% CI:1.3–18.1, P < 0.01) compared to pharmacists. Pharmacy workers who had received training were more likely to have correct knowledge on antihypertensive and anticonvulsant drugs than those who had no training.
Pharmacy workers’ knowledge and understanding of antihypertensive and anticonvulsant drugs, particularly for prevention and management of PE/E is limited in Bangladesh. Most pharmacies surveyed are private and staffed with unskilled workers with no formal training on drugs. Expansion of maternal and newborn health programs should consider providing additional skills training to pharmacy workers, as well as regulating these medicines at informal pharmacies to mitigate any harmful practices or adverse outcomes of unauthorized and incorrectly prescribed and used drugs. It is important that correct messaging and medicines are available as drug stores are often the first point of contact for most of the women and their families.