The role of patent medicine vendor in healthcare delivery

Although there are concerns about the quality of services provided by PMVs and the degree to which they comply with scope of practice and licensing regulations, they provide a major source of care. Nationally, PMVs are the first source of care for up to 55 % of illness episodes in children under age five (Greer, Madueke & Fapohunda, 2014).  PMVs (or “chemists,” as they were referred to locally) provide a first line source of healthcare for minor ailments. This first-line provider role included dispensing drugs, and at times offering advice on the illness or follow up care.

Forsberg and Montagu (2011) stated that minor ailments are generally understood to be common illnesses that did not require a trip to a public facility (frequently referred to locally as the “hospital”), so long as the illness responded to treatment and did not progress to a more serious condition. In addition to treating common or minor ailments, PMVs provide “first aid” as part of their role as first-line healthcare providers. This included providing immediate symptomatic relief or wound care for customers who were experiencing an acute illness episode and could not get to the hospital immediately. In many cases, this service was intended to facilitate transfer to a hospital, not as curative treatment.


Forsberg, B. C. & Montagu, D. (2011). Moving towards in-depth knowledge on the private health sector in low- and middle-income countries. Health Policy Plan, 26, 11–13.

Greer, G., Madueke, L. & Fapohunda,  B. (2014).  Improving management of childhood malaria in Nigeria and Uganda by improving practices of patent medicine vendors. Arlingt Va.:USAID.

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