Cheaper medicine not a healthy choice

PETALING JAYA: A trip to the clinic can be an expensive affair, with payments both for medicine and consultation.

However, at the traditional “kedai ubat,” the shopkeeper’s consultation is free, and the medicine is inexpensive.

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It’s no wonder that many Malaysians are avoiding doctors and opting to self-medicate.

Nor Wahida Mohd is a corporate communications executive, but she prefers buying traditional Chinese medicine for stomach discomfort from the local Chinese medicine shop or sinseh.

The 23-year-old said her family had been buying a type of charcoal pill from the shop.

“If I go to a clinic, I have to pay at least RM50 for medication and consultation.

“My mum bought tea with senna leaves online as it is good for digestion.

“I also buy my pet medicine online, for flu and ringworms, as recommended by other cat owners,” she said.

However, not all are convinced.

A 30-year-old fitness enthusiast who chose to remain anonymous said his experience buying health supplements online turned out to be traumatising.

“I bought (the supplement) from a relatively new retailer on an ecommerce platform as it was cheaper than my usual estore.

“After several days, I had an allergic reaction, with acne also appearing on parts of my body.

“The most frightening experience was when I woke up and lost my sight for about 15 minutes. My vision continued to be blurry for the remainder of the day,” he said.

Although the incident was almost five years ago, he said it had been a reminder to buy only verified products from authorised sellers.

More than 5% of medicines sold in the country could be counterfeit, the Health Ministry has said, and the Malaysian Pharmacists Society (MPS) hopes the authorities will be stricter in their enforcement.

Its president Amrahi Buang said the number could be higher than 5% with the proliferation of ecommerce platforms.

The public, he said, should never trade their safety for cheaper medicines that could be detrimental to their health.

“There is a need to create awareness of the dangers of counterfeit drugs. People should buy their medicines only from community pharmacies.

“Stern enforcement should be taken, and the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) needs to be more involved to curb online sales of counterfeit medicines,” he said, adding that selling counterfeit medication is against existing laws such as the Poisons Act.

Amrahi said the FarmaTag TM checker allows people to check on the legitimacy of the medications they wish to purchase.

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