Patent Medicine Vending: vendors’ perspectives on business and health

Patent medicine vendors (PMVs) , also known as medicine shop owners, are a major source of malaria medicines. This qualitative examination of how PMVs perceive their business was conducted by Kabiru Salami, Bill Brieger and Stephen Kodish.

DSCN3873 Pharmacies see many malaria patients, but do they keep malaria records 2Access to high-quality, affordable medicines is a global concern but manifests in distinctly local ways. In Nigeria, patent medicine vendors (PMVs) are a major source of medicines.  Criticism of PMVs focuses on drug quality, dispensing practices, and their lack of formal health care training.

This qualitative investigation approached PMVs as small business people and sought their business perspectives in comparison with views of other small business owners in Igbo-Ora, Nigeria.  This study utilized an iterative approach to data collection among 51 entrepreneurs.

In-depth interviews about participants’ businesses were collected from PMVs (16), Food (7), Clothing (7), Provisions (9), Motor Parts (n7), and others (n5). A codebook containing 27 themes was inductively developed from emergent data and combined into broader themes for interpretation using Atlas.ti v7.1.

Accounts from participants reveal differences between PMVs and other businesses including amount of education necessary to learn the trade, as well as the level of professionalism and cleanliness required to operate successfully. Unlike other groups, PMVs routinely are asked for highly technical information at point of purchase.

PMVs work largely under strong trade associations due to more controls imposed by regulatory agencies. Although selling medicine is a small-scale enterprise, the purveyors of the trade see their work differently from other small business people. Their business model is based on having adequate knowledge about their products and maintaining standards. PMVs can increase human resources for health because they want to improve both their work and business prospects.

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