Setting: Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), Vietnam.
Objectives: To assess knowledge about tuberculosis, to describe self-reported dispensing practices and to estimate the magnitude of anti-tuberculosis drug dispensing in private pharmacies.
Design: Survey of a random sample of 147 private pharmacies out of a total of 1814 registered pharmacies. Interviews were carried out based on a structured questionnaire.
Results: Eighteen per cent of interviewees identified TB as a possible diagnosis for a fictitious case with fever and cough for 4 weeks. Fifty-eight per cent reported selling anti-tuberculosis drugs often or sometimes. Interviewees estimated that 1.3 persons on average (95%CI 0.6-1.9) had bought anti-tuberculosis drugs during the last 4-week period, and that 24% of them had bought anti-tuberculosis drugs without a prescription.
Conclusion: We have estimated that between 1100 and 3400 persons buy anti-tuberculosis drugs each month in the 1814 registered private pharmacies in HCMC, that about a quarter of them do so without a prescription, and that at least 40% of all anti-tuberculosis drug dispensing in HCMC occurs in the private sector. Regulations need to be put in place urgently and collaboration strengthened between the strong National Tuberculosis Programme and the unorganised private sector in HCMC.