According to the Coca Cola website,1 it is the most popular soft drink in history, as well as the best known brand in the world. Its ingredients are carbonated water, high fructose syrup, caramel colour, phosphoric acid, natural flavours, and caffeine. These, however, have not always been the ingredients.

Coca Cola was invented by John Stith Pemberton. Slashed across the chest by a sabre whilst serving for the Confederate Army in the Battle of Columbus, in 1865, he – like many wounded veterans – became addicted to morphine used to ease the pain. Well, as luck would have it, he was a pharmacist and set about searching for a cure to his addiction.

He began experimenting with coca, a tropical American shrub whose leaves are the source of cocaine. Eventually he came up with a syrup containing that, as well as damania – also a tropical shrub, whose leaves reputedly possess aphrodisiac qualities – and kola nut, which contains caffeine. A few more experiments and the rest is history.

What Pemberton did was pharmacy – the science or practice of preparing and dispensing medical drugs. Because ‘medical drugs’ can be things we need protection from (that is, we need protection from ourselves, actually) the practice of pharmacy and the pharmacist profession are strictly controlled and regulated. Our Pharmacy Act 1974 does this, and it is administered by the Minister of Health.

A. Registration

  1. It is an offence to practise as a pharmacist, or carry on business as a pharmacist,2 unless you are registered with the South African Pharmacy Council.3

  2. If, without being registered as a pharmacist, you:
    • pretend or (by any means) hold yourself out to be a pharmacist;
    • use the name of ‘pharmacist’, or use any name, title, description or symbol likely to infer that you possess a degree or diploma or other pharmaceutical qualification, or that you are registered under the Act;4 or
    • in describing your business activities, or premises, use the term ‘pharmacy’ or ‘chemist’s shop’ or ‘drug store’ or any other like term,

    you commit an offence.

  3. Any person who tries to get himself (or any other person) registered under the Act, or tries to get any certificate, licence, permit, order or prescription by means of a false representation, whether verbally or in writing commits an offence.5

  4. It is a crime to:
    • make, or cause any entry, or alteration in, or removal from any register, or a certified copy or extract therefrom, or any certificate issued under the Act, which is not authorised;6
    • destroy, or damage or render illegible any entry in a register or any certificate7 issued under the Act;8
    • forge or, knowingly put into circulation any document falsely purporting to be a certificate issued under the Act.9
  5. If you impersonate any person who is registered under the Act you commit an offence.10

B. Trading Name

  1. It is a contravention of the Act to carry on business as a retail pharmacist (whether alone or in partnership with another person) under any name, title or description which is or includes the surname of a natural person, who is not an owner of the practice.11

C. The Council

  1. The purposes of the South African Pharmacy Council include:
    • to assist in the promotion of the health of the population of the Republic;
    • to advise on any matter relating to pharmacy;
    • to promote the provision of pharmaceutical care;
    • to uphold and safeguard the rights of the general public;
    • to establish, develop, maintain and control universally acceptable standards in pharmaceutical education and training;
    • a watchdog on professional conduct;
    • investigating complaints or accusations relating to the conduct of registered persons; and
    • to maintain and enhance the dignity of the pharmacy profession.

    It has wide ranging powers and functions.12

  2. Any person who:
    • refuses access to any officer or person authorised to undertake inspections;
    • obstructs or hinders him in the execution of his duties under the Act;
    • refuses to give information to such officer or person, or
    • knowingly gives false or misleading information,

    commits an offence.13

  3. Before you can offer education and training for purposes of registration under the Act, you and the education and training concerned must be approved by the Council. It is a crime to:
    • prevent any person (authorised under the Act to perform a function for, or to act on behalf of the Council) from entering, at a reasonable time, an institution or premises offering education and training; and
    • hinder such person in making any investigation required to be done by the Council.14
  4. The Council has the power to hold an inquiry into charges of misconduct. Every person summoned to appear is bound to obey the summons. If he refuses or fails to:15
    • attend;
    • give evidence;
    • take the oath or to make an affirmation;
    • produce any book, record, document or thing summoned to produce; or
    • answer fully and satisfactorily any question,

    he is likely to be guilty of an offence.

  5. Any person who knowingly gives false evidence at an inquiry shall be guilty of an offence.16

  6. The Council may, after an inquiry, order that any registered pharmacist be suspended from practice, and/or from keeping and dispensing certain scheduled substances. It can also impose conditions on his remaining in practice. It is an offence not to comply with any such order.17

D. Commission on prescription

  1. Any pharmacist who pays to any person any commission, or in any other manner rewards him, in connection with a prescription issued by a doctor (or a vet) commits an offence.18

  2. What this encompasses is prescribed by Regulation 1158 of 2000; BN 108 of 2008; BN 271 of 2013. There are certain exceptions in section 29(3) – in particular the keeping of medicines or the supply of medicines to his own patients or clients by any medical practitioner, dentist, practitioner, veterinarian or nurse in accordance with the Medicines and Related Substances Control Act, 1965. 

  3. Section 29(1)a. 

  4. Section 29(1)b. 

  5. Section 30(a). 

  6. Section 30(b). 

  7. If this is without the permission of the holder of the certificate. 

  8. Section 30(c). 

  9. Section 30(d). 

  10. Section 30(e). 

  11. Section 36(1) read with 36(4). 

  12. Section 3. 

  13. Section 38(2). 

  14. Section 34(3). 

  15. Section 40(1)(c). 

  16. Section 46. 

  17. Section 38(5). 

  18. Section 43.