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May 30, 2012

Medicine Gmach Shut Down

In religious ocmmunities in Israel, one can find in the local directory a multitude of free services offered under the category "Gmach". There is a gmach for almost anything you might ever need in a pinch, or as a one-time need.

One of those gmachs, one I was always surprised to see, is a medicine gmach. Somebody starts a medicine gmach storing unused medicines, often prescriptions that were filled but not taken or remaining medicine after the recommended dose was used. The gmach will usually be accessed when no pharmacy is available, such as late at night or on Shabbat. Someone gets sick, so you go get your medicine and then after Shabbos you go to a doctor, get a prescription, fill it and replace the medicine. Sometimes it might include selling medicines that are very expensive and not included in the "basket of subsidized medicines" at discounted prices.

I never really understood how someone could run one of these medicine gmachs. There is so much liability. If someone should overdose or have an allergic reaction, or a bad side-effect, it is a lawsuit waiting to happen. Besides for the fact that it must be illegal to distribute medicines like this, without prescriptions, by someone unlicensed.

Anyway, the news is reporting that the police today raided the house of someone in Rechasim who was operating a medicine gmach. They suspect that he was collecting scripts and filling them at the pharmacy, after which he would distribute to people who needed medicines. As well, he would collect unused medicines from sick people.

The investigation began after a complaint to the Ministry of Health. I don't know why this fellow was singled out - it doesn't say that medicine that he distributed caused someone to get sick or some other harm.. 

Either way, I have not heard of this happening before, and these medicine gmachs have been around for a long time. It was long overdue that someone would complain and force the authorities to step in.

Will we soon see the end of the medicine gmach?

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  1. Here in EY, medicine gemachim are very, very common. Whoever wrote this has a very American lawsuit mindset that just doesn't "fit" here.

    The person who wrote this blog really doesn't understand what a medicine gemach IS. A medicine gemach is used when you have a prescription or can get one in the morning for a medicine that you have either run out of or got a prescription for but it was too late to have it filled or some other such thing. There is no problem with worrying about someone getting sick or having a reaction because the person who has the gemach is not prescribing anything and she [or he] is not just giving out medicines to someone like a pharmacist would, she is just giving someone something they need to tide them over until the morning [or until after Shabbos or chag].

    Doctors here frequently tell people after hours to go to a medicine gemach to get various meds and the gemach generally requires either a prescription or money as a deposit until you can replace the medicine. It is not just a place to get free medicine. They will take unused medicine that is closed and unused and still within its use-by date.

    It seems that the person in the article was doing more than running a medicine gemach; it seems that he [or she] was filling prescriptions for other people instead of their filling them themselves, so it may be that they felt that fraud was involved.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. The person who wrote this blog really doesn't understand what a medicine gemach IS.

    The person who wrote that comment really doesn't understand the purpose of this blog or the person who compiles it.

  4. anonymous - nothign you write contradicts anything I wrote. As a matter of fact, oru knowledge of the medicine gmachs seem to be pretty similar. I have used them (probably only once in the past 15 years, but used them nonetheless), and we have 2 on our block in RBS and probably another 2 with a 3 block radius of our house. I know how common they are.

    The fact that they are common changes nothing. Somebody not licensed to dispense medication is dispensing medicine. Without a prescription. (once the person is not licensed I doubt the lack of prescription makes a difference).

    you are right that my awe at the system is based on my American mindset. I can only imagine someone deciding which antibiotic he needs because it is late at night, or Shabbos. He assumes the dosage and assumes the effects. Maybe sometimes all is good and nothing happens.
    What happens that one time when he takes the medicine and has a reaction, or takes the wrong dosage, or whatever. Doctors go to medical school to learn how to prescribe and take into account the various potential side-effects.

    So, again, most of the time hopefully nothing happens. What happens in the one case out of a thousand or ten thousand where someone gets very ill from the wrong medicine, not realizing a side-effect or understanding what side-effects he is prone to, etc.?

    It does not matter how common it is, or that the frum doctor says to get it from the medicine gmach. When somebody unlicensed is dispensing medicine, it is an accident waiting to happen.

  5. Oh Rafi, you and your American "fear" of death and maiming...

  6. Is the person who runs the gemach a pharmacist or doctor? Do they know the what the shelf life of various antibiotics is? Do they know the proper storage procedures for pharmaceuticals? This is far more complicated than a simple "well if someone else says it's okay, it must be". There's also the issue of how the gemach is getting their drugs. For things like antibiotics, if they're implicitly encouraging people to not take their full prescribed dose (so they can give the leftovers to the gemach), there is a serious public health risk.

    There is a reason this field is regulated and controlled. Stop being so frum that you think you're exempt from all the rules.


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