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An individual who, as a regular course of business, mixes, compounds, dispenses, and sells medicines and similar health aids.

The term druggist may be used interchangeably with pharmacist.

Ordinarily, druggists must be registered under the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (21 U.S.C.A. § 301 et seq. [1938]). Federal drug abuse laws make provisions for the special registration of any individual who handles controlled substances.


As a public health measure, states have the power to regulate the preparation and dispensing of drugs. They can proscribe the sale of certain substances without a prescription and specifically designate who is permitted to deal in prescription drugs. Statutes govern the procedures that must be observed when drugs are handled, as well as the steps that must be taken for the inspection of drugstores and pharmacy records by agents of the state.

States can properly mandate that pharmacists be licensed, provided the necessary qualifications are not unreasonable. For example, although it would be reasonable for a state to require that pharmacists earn college degrees, it would be unreasonable to require them to be natural-born citizens of the United States. State legislatures have the authority to prohibit any type of improper competition that would tend to lower the service standards.

Education and License

A druggist must ordinarily be a graduate of an accredited pharmacy school and be of sound moral character. In some instances, he or she might be required to pass a written qualifying examination. An individual who conforms to all the requisite qualifications cannot be refused a license arbitrarily.

An individual who is licensed in one state does not have the authority to dispense drugs in other states, except where one state consents to recognize a license that has been issued in another state. A license might have to be periodically renewed and can be revoked or suspended for misconduct, such as the selling of an unlabeled drug, the unauthorized substitution of a cheaper for a more expensive drug, or the sale of prescription drugs to an individual who does not have a valid prescription.

Any state board decision to grant, revoke, or suspend a license is a proper subject for court review. A judge has the power to modify the decision of the board in the event that it is either Arbitrary or unsupported by evidence.

Any business or individual engaged in handling drugs has a legal obligation to exercise proper care.

A druggist does not have the duty to fill every prescription that is presented, and he or she is not permitted to fill a prescription that appears to be a sham. A druggist who refuses to fill a prescription must return such prescription to the customer. The pharmacist is not permitted to retain it, for example, merely because money is owed by the customer.

Pharmacists are required to maintain written records of the drugs they sell and must allow the proper state officials to inspect such records. It is not ordinarily unlawful for a pharmacist to fill a prescription on the direction of a doctor who telephones it in, even if the doctor does not subsequently send a written authorization. The pharmacist, however, is required to make a written record at the time the prescription is filled.

Although a pharmacist is not required to know everything possible about drugs, he or she is required to be as skilled as most others in the profession. Additionally, a pharmacist owes customers a high degree of care in the service given to them, and they may properly make the assumption that the drugs that they are sold are suitable for the use that he or she recommends. Customers can rely upon any specific claims that the pharmacist makes for the drugs.

Liability for Injuries

A druggist who has failed to comply with the legal responsibilities of the profession can be subject to a legal action by a consumer. Liability is extended to a licensed pharmacist for his or her own Negligence as well as the negligence of employees who work for him or her. The pharmacist is not ordinarily held liable for injuries sustained due to medicines sold by him or her in their original packages.


A state can require that a drugstore be registered, and some mandate that the individual who runs the store be a licensed pharmacist. Regardless of whether or not this is a requirement, only a licensed pharmacist is permitted to dispense drugs. In addition, depending on individual state statute, some types of drugs can be sold only by a pharmacist.

Certain types of drugs have been designated patent medicines and household remedies, such as hydrogen peroxide, zinc oxide, camphor olive oil, aspirin, isopropyl alcohol, and essence of peppermint, and they may or may not be sold exclusively by pharmacists. Foods ordinarily do not fall under the category of drugs to be sold only by pharmacists regardless of health claims that are made for them. Vitamins are regarded as medicines in some instances and as food in others. Ordinarily, all of these items may be sold without a pharmacy license.

A physician does not have any special right to own or operate a drugstore. A person should not, however, be denied a license merely because he or she is also a medical doctor. Laws governing pharmacy do not generally interfere with the right of a physician to sell drugs to his or her patients. The physician cannot, however, make it a regular practice to fill prescriptions that other physicians send.


Drugs and Narcotics; Health Care Law; Physicians and Surgeons.

West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
At the same time, decreases were registered in the segments of "retail sales of computers, peripheral units and software; telecommunications equipment" by 0.8% and "dispensing chemist; retail sales of medical and orthopaedic goods, cosmetic and toilet articles" by 0.4%.
At the same time, more significant decline was registered in the 'retail sale via mail order houses or via Internet' - by 4.0% and by 1.5% in the 'dispensing chemist; retail sale of medical and orthopedic goods, cosmetic and toilet articles' and in the 'retail sale of audio and video equipment; hardware, paints and glass; electrical household appliances'.
In July 2012, compared to the same month of 2011, the turnover increased in the 'Retail Sale via Mail Order Houses or via Internet' by 19.7%, in the 'Dispensing Chemist; Retail Sale of Medical and Orthopedic Goods, Cosmetic and Toilet Articles' by 10.9%, in the 'Retail Sale of Automotive Fuel' by 6.6% and in the 'Retail Sale of Computers, Peripheral Units and Software; Telecommunications Equipment' by 6.4% and in the 'Retail Sale of Food, Beverages and Tobacco' by 1.8%.
In May 2012 compared to the same month of 2011, the turnover grew in the retail sale via mail order houses or via Internet - by 11.4%, in the dispensing chemist; retail sale of medical and orthopedic goods, cosmetic and toilet articles - by 3.8%, in the retail sale of food, beverages and tobacco - by 2.2% and in the retail sale of computers, peripheral units and software; telecommunications equipment - by 1.9%.
In July 2011, the turnover compared to the previous month increased by 0.5% in the section Retail Sale of Food, Beverages and Tobacco, by 0.1% in Dispensing Chemist; Retail Sale of Medical and Orthopedic Goods, Cosmetic and Toilet Articles.
A monthly decline was observed in 'Dispensing chemist; retail sale of medical and orthopaedic goods, cosmetic and toilet articles' by 6.2%, in 'Retail sale of textiles, clothing, footwear and leather goods by 6.0% and in 'Retail sale of computers, peripheral units and software; telecommunications equipment' by 0.4%.
Chew Dispensing Chemists, Remembrance Road, Coventry.
Opposite the Park Hotel back then was Bernard Steyn Limited, dispensing chemists who specialised in perfumery and toilet requisites.
Butchers, bakers and bottle shops are decked out in red and white, Cheeky Imp commemorative ale and wines are back in production and even dispensing chemists have got in on the act.