KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) has objected to the proposed amendments to the Poisons Act 1952 that would jail private doctors who refused to give prescriptions upon request by patients.
It also objected to the amendment to include the use of an e-prescription signed with a digital signature.
Calling the proposed jail term amendment "totally inappropriate", its president Dr N. Ganabaskaran said that such a severe and harsh penalty should only be meted out for offences that have severe consequences.
"MMA strongly objects to the proposed amendments and urges the Government to withdraw the tabling with immediate effect for further stakeholders consultations and impact analysis," he said in a statement on Friday (Nov 29).
Dr Ganabaskaran said that this was a medical ethics issue rather than a crime related one.
"Will the pharmacist or pharmacy too be penalised with a jail sentence if they dispense without a prescription?" he asked.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad tabled amendments to the Poisons Act 1952 in Parliament on Monday (Nov 25) that proposed penalising private doctors, dental surgeons, and veterinarians with a maximum fine of RM3,000, up to a year’s imprisonment, or both should they refuse to provide prescription slips upon request by patients.
Dr Ganabaskaran said the existing Poisons Act, Medical Act and the Code of Professional conduct already clearly stipulates the prescription rights of patients upon request.
On a separate issue, MMA also found it alarming that the amendment Bill also created a new provision on electronic prescriptions (Section 21(2A)), to be signed with a digital signature and sent to a registered pharmacist as an electronic message.
"This amendment is alarming considering that e-prescriptions are part and parcel of online healthcare which involves complex ethical and regulatory enactments to ensure patient safety.
"The near absence of such patient safeguarding measures and input by healthcare professionals and in particular the Malaysian Medical Council is of utmost concern," he said.
Dr Ganabaskaran said that the legalisation of e-prescriptions without these regulations in place open up the potential for unethical and dangerous practice as patients may be given e-prescriptions without proper examinations.
He asked why the sudden haste and urgency in tabling the amendments without the due diligence needed.
The pharmaceutical industry in the GP market annual turnover was estimated at RM1.3bil in 2013 but commercial considerations must never be the underlying principle of change at the expense of public safety, he said.
He said the Bill should be withdrawn as it was not only the right thing to do, but mandatory to protect patient safety and health.