Consumers Association of Penang

Giving voice to the little people...since 1970

Dispensing Separation: Ensuring Medication Safety

There has been a lot of discussion in the media on the old issue of Dispensing Separation lately.

Many of the arguments put forth are on areas like convenience, accessibility and even competency. While CAP feels that although these are important for the consumers, Medication Safety to patients should be of paramount importance and this should be the main consideration for the authorities to take into account for any decision on the issue of Dispensing Separation. The current vintage practice of the private clinic doctors prescribing and dispensing does not provide a safety mechanism for a qualified third party audit or check on the appropriateness or accuracy of the prescriptions. Absence of check and balance in healthcare rules out patient safety.

 

Consumers are at the end of the medicines supply chain and the ultimate victims should there be any mishaps with the medications. Medicines cannot be equated with candy or chocolate bars; medicines belong to a special category of products which are referred to as Poisons. Surely there must be some form of screening and checking of prescriptions before the medicines are given to the consumers like what has been the common practice in government healthcare facilities.

CAP feels that there must be a check and balance mechanism for consumer medication safety and this can only be done with the separation of prescribing and dispensing, a practice that has been adopted in most part of the world with Malaysia and Singapore been the few odd countries in the world which are still allowing the prescriber to prescribe and supply medications to their patients.

CAP feels that any implementation of Dispensing Separation should be carefully planned and carried out in a systematic staggered manner, starting with the urban areas where there are sufficient number of pharmacies to clinics. All the stakeholders be given advance notice to prepare and work together so as to avoid any complications that may arise from poor planning or hasty implementation.

To prevent any party from profiteering, CAP calls upon the government to have a Price Control for medicines. If price control can be done for common consumer goods, there is no reason why price control cannot be done for medicine which are not only essential for the sick but are also life saving for many patients. In addition CAP also urges the Government to make itemised billing mandatory for the supply or sales of all medicinal and healthcare products.

Concerns have been expressed about Dispensing Separation leading to monopolies in the dispensing sector, with the pharmaceutical company and Big Business killing the small owner operated pharmacies. This problem must be addressed with proper legal checks.

To prevent any General Practitioner working in cahoots with any Pharmacist to profit from medicine sales and high business, CAP would like to call upon the MMA and MPS to monitor the practices of its members to ensure that the customers are not taken advantage of by any healthcare professionals. These and other health professional associations can assist to identify and report to the authorities errant private practitioners and private pharmacists who are willing to overlook professional ethics and good conduct. Prompt and deterrent actions should be taken against such private doctors or pharmacists.

CAP would like to remind the Malaysian Medical Association and the Malaysian Pharmaceutical Society that as a professional body they are responsible for the actions of their members and that they have a responsibility to ensure that the profession adheres to a strict Code of Conduct and Practice.


Press Release, 19 March 2015