We refer to the statement by the Deputy Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr. Hilmy Yahya that the “Government is in no rush to table Pharmacy Bill.” [The Star 25 May 2015].
We call on the Government to table the Bill in Parliament without any further delay and make it available for the public to comment. There are a lot of rumours flying around in the social media about the Bill which would be put to rest by its publication.
One of the subjects included in the Bill is Dispensation Separation scheme in the healthcare sector. There is no need to delay the implementation of this scheme as it is widely practiced and proved to beneficial to patients.
Five out of six healthcare subsectors practise dispensation separation. Only in the private primary care subsector doctors/dispensers prescribe and dispense medicine. Over 80% of the doctors are in the subsectors where there is dispensation separation. It is thus a proved scheme, beneficial to the patients, which needs no further debate.
On the claim by the Doctors Lobby that introducing the scheme in the private primary-care subsector would lead to increased medicine costs for the patients, a USM survey using "simulated client" methodology shows that medicine dispensed at community pharmacies for self-limiting minor ailments were cheaper compared to those obtained from private clinics.
The study also found that doctors tend to prescribe more medicines for indications not needed especially antibiotics and antihistamines.
On the issue of convenience and access to pharmacies, now, there are 300,000 pensioners collecting their medicine from community pharmacies under the government E_MASS programme. Therefore, the issue of convenience/accessibility does not arise. In any event what is most important is that patients are prescribed and dispensed medicine that is needed and safe without adverse effects. They also need to be counselled on the way it is to be administered. There needs to be a check and balance on what doctors prescribe and that function is performed by pharmacists.
Dispensation Separation can be introduced in the big cities initially where there are enough pharmacies. Implementation must be closely monitored and weaknesses rectified promptly.
Laws must be introduced to prevent the growth of monopoly in the pharmacies sector: Pharmacies must be owned by pharmacists and not private companies.
The Government must not give in to the Doctors Lobby and delay implementing the scheme. It must have the political will to implement what is good for the people.
Letter to the Press, 29th May 2015