WE refer to the announcement of the decision by the director-general of Health, Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, at a meeting with the stakeholders on the tabling of the new pharmacy bill or Rang Undang-Undang Farmasi (RUUF).
We pharmacists would like to state categorically that we object and reject the proposed Bill in its current form as it will not accord any benefit to the public.
1. Any new pharmacy bill without the implementation of dispensing separation (DS) within a stipulated time frame is unprofessional and unacceptable.
The most important element for the anticipated national healthcare transformation, DS in the private sector (community pharmacy practice), is starkly omitted in contrast to the public/government sector.
Feedback and input from consumer groups and pharmacists were ignored while those from the other health fraternities
were largely incorporated into RUUF.
Similarly, consumers’ rights and empowerment were placed on the backseat as though the core values (individual responsibility, community participation and affordability) in the Malaysian health vision were unimportant.
RUUF fails to provide adequate consumer protection in medication matters such as consumers’ right to medication choice and their right to know their medicines as well as their prescriptions.
There is no justification in delaying the implementation of DS and denying pharmacists the chance to fulfil their role in safeguarding patients’ welfare and using their training and knowledge towards optimising public health.
Why the double standards?
This globally proven doctors-diagnose-and-prescribe and pharmacists-audit-and-dispense system remains elusive in Malaysia although developed nation status is just four years away for us.
Allow us to highlight Section 10 of a World Health Organisation (WHO) report titled “Promoting rational use of medicines: core components”, which states that “Prescribers who earn money from the sale of medicines (e.g. dispensing doctors), prescribe more medicines, and more expensive medicines, than prescribers who do not; therefore the health system should be organised so that prescribers do not dispense or sell medicines”.
This is why most countries, including third world countries, opt for dispensing separation as this removes conflict of interest, such as a doctor prescribing medications that earn him a hefty profit.
2. We reject the inhumane penalty proposed to all medical professions under RUUF.
The bill’s proposal of “More Deterrent Penalties” pertaining to dealing of medicines by all medical professions, increasing the penalty or fine by ten fold or more and imprisonment of one year on some infringements are absurd!
It is ironic that while it is not willing to recognise the professional roles of pharmacists, the Health Ministry is proposing such draconian penalties for the profession.
The private sector community pharmacists have already been “robbed” of the sole dispensing right and they are made to appear like “criminals” with some pharmacies being raided, and the pharmacists dragged to court by the authorities who, even with the existing penalties, threaten to force community pharmacists to comply with additional self-made rules and regulations that are not stipulated in the Acts.
An example of these self-made rules is the additional recording of certain medicines sales (applicable only to pharmacies but clinics are exempted). Imagine what would happen if the fine is increased to such absurdity.
3. The proposed Malaysian Pharmacy Council should be headed by a pharmacist, not a doctor.
With reference to the proposed Establishment of Malaysian Pharmacy Council, it is only appropriate and logical that the chairperson of the Malaysian Pharmacy Council be a pharmacist.
There will be a great conflict of interest in having a doctor to head the Malaysian Pharmacy Council.
The members of the council should be elected by pharmacists, as is the practice in the Malaysian Medical Council, and not appointed as proposed in RUUF.
In addition, the country’s top public service pharmacist should not be reporting directly to the top public service doctor, as is the current situation.
4. RUUF will allow untrained personnel to compound medications, a work that the pharmacists are specifically trained to do and which the doctors are NOT.
Pharmacies wanting to compound medications need to meet several strict conditions imposed by the Health Ministry but the untrained doctors need not.
Some of our medical counterparts are always demanding that other people, including pharmacists, should not be playing doctor but why should they want to be playing pharmacist?
It will indeed be a sad day if RUUF is passed. RUUF completely disregards the role of trained pharmacists while allowing non- pharmacists to do the work of pharmacists.
RUUF will deprive the rakyat of the opportunity to receive quality pharmaceutical care.
Thus, RUUF in its present format cannot be accepted by pharmacists.
GAN BER ZIN
Former Chief Pharmacist
Hospital Tuanku Jaafar, Seremban,
On Behalf of the Facebook Group at
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