PETALING JAYA: In the heart of a bustling shopping district in Kuala Lumpur, where haggling vendors share the streets with tourists exploring the city, several shop lots that covertly run as illegal clinics and pharmacies are operating with impunity.
These premises in Jalan Silang – manned by “doctors” from Bangladesh – have dispensaries containing a range of medicine imported from the South Asian country, understood to be both modern and alternative types.
The lack of red tape, lower costs and familiarity are among the reasons why foreign workers here prefer to seek treatment from these “doctors”, who dispense medicine from their own country, said Rehat, a Bangladeshi merchant.
“There are four or five of such clinics around here that actively operate. They run all day until about 7pm. But they won’t sell the medicine to you if you’re not Bangladeshi.
“They are wary of Malaysians because they don’t want to get into trouble.
“It’s because the types of medicine they sell here are illegal. They are not registered with the government (Health Ministry). To sell medicine here, you must have the registration sticker,” said Rehat, who runs a shop near the clinics.
He claimed that the medicine is smuggled from Bangladesh by middlemen, who turn a profit by supplying them to the busy “clinics”.
Rehat, who has worked in Malaysia for more than a decade, claimed that the medicine sold is “top quality”.
“They’re from Square Pharmaceutical, a Bangladeshi pharmaceuticals company. They have international quality medicine that is among the best in the world.
“Bangladeshis trust medicine and people from their own country more, that’s why they visit the Bangladeshi clinics when they’re sick.
“For example, the medicine that they get from Malaysian doctors for gastric problems won’t solve the issue.
“But if they seek treatment from the Bangladeshi doctors, they get medicine that helps them recover much faster,” he said.
He also claimed that the Bangladeshi doctors are legitimate and qualified medical officers back home, but they do not have the legal qualifications to practise in this country.
Restaurant worker Ali, in his 30s, also echoed Rehat’s statement, saying that the Bangladeshi doctors are trusted among foreign labourers because they are professionals and provide good medicine.
“The Bangladeshi doctor’s clinic is the place to be if you need medicine from Bangladesh. All my friends go to these doctors when they fall sick.
“They have a good dispensary. You can find all sorts of medicine there, both traditional herbal ones and modern medicine,” said Ali.
In the affluent neighbourhood of Mont Kiara, there are also several sundry shops selling imported medicine and supplements from countries such as Indonesia and India.
One such shop surveyed by The Star exclusively carried a range of Indian medicine and supplements, from hair vitamins and skin whitening creams to medicine for chronic constipation, cough and headaches.
The shop also sells a good range of ayurvedic medicine, with the shopkeeper saying that both traditional and modern medicine were popular choices among Indians working in Kuala Lumpur.
“All of our products are from India. Our customers include Indian professionals such as those in the IT (information technology) sector. They are good people who just want medicine from their home country and they know that this is where they can get it,” said the shopkeeper known only as Ramesh, 21.
The imported Indian products sighted by The Star did not appear to be registered with the Drug Control Authority (DCA) as there were no registration numbers or stickers.
According to the Health Ministry, all pharmaceutical products including health supplements and traditional medicine must be registered with the DCA before being marketed in Malaysia.
Registered products will bear a registration number beginning with ‘MAL’, followed by eight digits, ending with the product code.
They also carry the Meditag hologram sticker which can be verified using a decoder at pharmacies or via the Meditag Checker mobile app.