NSW South Coast pharmacy stocks pill-testing kits, expert warns against them

Dr Kean-Seng Lim (left). Picture: AMA NSW
Dr Kean-Seng Lim (left). Picture: AMA NSW

A local pharmacy is now stocking pill-testing kits.

There are six kits on sale at Choice Pharmacy Vincentia used to test the purity of illicit substances in ecstasy, cocaine, ketamine, LSD and MDMA tablets.

The business, which took home first prize at the Illawarra and South Coast Business Awards for being the ‘Most Outstanding Pharmacy’ in 2018, announced the substance-testing kits were available in store and online on January 24.

“If you're going to take it, test it,” Choice Pharmacy Vincentia said via Facebook.

It is understood Choice Vincentia is the only pharmacy in the Shoalhaven to stock pill-testing kits. The kits are also available upon request at a number of other local pharmacies, willing to order them in for customers.

Proper pill-testing trials involve not just testing pills but engaging with information, and trying to minimise harm.

Dr Kean-Seng Lim

Owner Ali Nazim was eager to discuss his decision to stock pill-testing kits with the South Coast Register, however Choice Pharmacy’s communications department cancelled the interview, due to the controversial nature of the subject matter.

Meanwhile, Australian Medical Association of NSW president and general practitioner Kean-Seng Lim has warned of the perils of do-it-yourself pill-testing.

“Pill-testing by itself is not the magic bullet, it’s unlikely to be the answer,” Dr Lim said.

“We’ve seen pill-testing work overseas when combined with counselling with experts in the field, it’s used as a good way to engage with people who are thinking about taking drugs. 

“A health professional will never tell you a pill will be safe to use. They might tell you, if you are going to use it, this is what you will need to look out for, these are ways you can minimise harm, or how to look out for for friends who are using it.

“Proper pill-testing trials involve not just testing pills but engaging with information, and trying to minimise harm.

“Home testing kits are almost certainly the wrong way to be doing it. This is where you are not going to get any further advice. You can be led into a false sense of security.”

The widespread push for pill-testing trials to be implemented at NSW music festivals has led the news recently, after several drug-related deaths over summer.

Dr Lim acknowledged recreational drug use as a rite of passage for many young people in Australia.

“Some surveys show up to 60 per cent of people who have attended music festivals have used an illicit recreational drug over the past 12 months,” he said.

“A lot the people going are just ordinary people, we have to ensure they don’t come to harm.

“I’ve had young patients who’ve overdosed and parents don’t hear about it until afterwards. When they find out, everyone’s totally shocked. We need to get to them beforehand somehow.”

While the AMA has been a vocal supporter of pill-testing trials at festivals, Dr Lim wanted to draw the community’s focus back to a legal and regulated drug impacting on the health of Australian people.

“We are spending a lot of time talking about pill-testing,” he said.

“Alcohol is our biggest problem in terms of recreational drugs, it is a far bigger problem.”