Pharmacists urge buyers to get medicine from verified sources

KUALA LUMPUR: The shortage of medications used to relieve Covid-19 symptoms could lead to more fakes flooding the market, pharmacists warn.

The shortage is being reported throughout the country and even health practitioners are not able to get their supply of cough mixture, sore throat medication and paracetamol.

Malaysian Pharmacists Society (MPS) president Amrahi Buang confirmed shortages were being reported all over the country.

He said the situation deteriorated following the Chinese New Year and Federal Territories public holidays.

“During that period, we saw lots of people travelling across state borders, and the lack of adherence to standard operating procedure might have contributed to a surge in the number of cases.

“This resulted in an increase in demand for all medicines related to Covid-19,” he said.

Amrahi said besides the rise in demand, stocks in the country were also affected by logistical issues and international demand.

He also warned of the possibility of a booming market in counterfeit medicine.

This is because the shortage is not just in Malaysia but all over the world.

“This is why the public should get their medication from verified community pharmacies and if they are searching for medication online, they can get them from MPS-verified shopfronts to ensure they do not buy fake medicine,” he added.

Amrahi said the government should focus on ensuring equal access to medicine across the country.

“Sometimes manufacturers do not distribute medicines well, meaning they give the drugs to private clinics but not pharmacists.”

Malaysia, Amrahi added, should also strive to be self-sufficient by manufacturing medicines.

“I highlighted the issue of a medicine shortage two years ago, but are we prepared to go to the endemic phase with a lack of supply?

“Malaysia needs to be self-sufficient, the local industry must be supported and we can also work with neighbouring countries to manufacture medicines,” he added.

Malaysian Medical Association president Dr Koh Kar Chai, meanwhile, told the public to buy only what they needed and to not stock up to avoid unnecessary wastage. Some medicines, he said, have short expiry dates.

“Do understand that these are non-crucial drugs which are meant only for control of symptoms and not for treatment of diseases,” he added.

Dr Koh said that while there had been some disruption in the supply of certain medications at several pharmacies and clinics, the situation was still manageable as there were alternatives.

“In pharmacies, it has been noted that the better-known brands are usually affected first as these are what the consumers will go for when making their purchase.

“However, there is no acute shortage,” he added.

A doctor at a clinic in Subang Jaya, who requested anonymity, said the clinic was running low on cough mixture, sore throat medication, paracetamol, antihistamines and asthma medication.

“I worry in case we really run out of meds, what will happen to my patients?” she lamented

She believes the shortage was due to more people being out and about these days, compared to when travel restrictions and work-from-home orders were enforced.

Association of Private Hospitals Malaysia president Datuk Dr Kuljit Singh, however, said he believes that the situation is not something to be alarmed over, especially since it does not involve any life-threatening medical conditions.

“Manufacturers will supply according to demand – if it is high then they will increase the supply, so I think by now they have started to realise there is a shortage and are stepping up production.

“The situation is getting better, the last two to three weeks was bad.

“We can always get alternative medications for the short-term.Once the stock is back, we can switch to more common brands,” he added.

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