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CHENGDU, China China can't be said to have retail pharmacies in the American sense because, under current Chinese law, only hospitals can dispense prescription drugs. Still, the drug store industry there has mushroomed in tandem with the country's rapid economic development, with "yaofang" (that's Mandarin for "drug store") chains appearing in many major cities, such as the southwestern metropolis of Chengdu, where this photo of a Kangfu Long Pingjia store was taken.
For the most part, typical Chinese drug stores look a lot like their American counterparts, stocking a lots of domestic- and foreign-brand OTC drugs, personal care products and devices. Instead of pharmacies, stores often have sections for traditional Chinese medicine. Also absent are consumables, magazines, photo departments and many of the other products and services common in American retail pharmacies.
Despite the limitations imposed by their inability to dispense prescription drugs, Chinese drug stores seem to get along just fine by sticking to the basics, even as American retail pharmacies try to one-up each other with ever-expanding ranges of products and services. But China's drug store industry has a long way to go in terms of development and consolidation, and market pressures may force drug stores to do more to pull in customers. Already, nationwide chain Nepstar has started offering such services as kiosks that customers can use to pay their bills.