This is the first part of two articles on whether Malaysian consumers are
ready for dispensing separation
KUALA LUMPUR, June 19 (Bernama) -- "Going to a clinic and getting medication
at a pharmacy does not go well with people like me. I work for a company and the
employees usually go to the company''s clinic if they or their family
members become ill.
"At the clinic, the employee does not pay a single cent for treatment,
as everything will be absorbed by his employer. If I need to go to a pharmacy to
get medicine, then it will be difficult, as I have to pay for it".
That was the response of Misnan Kadi from Paya Jaras in Sungai Buloh near
here. He was approached by this writer on the dispensing issue at a private
clinic in Bandar Baru Sungai Buloh.
"Getting medicines from another place...like a pharmacy? There are four to
five private clinics here, but I can hardly find a pharmacy. Better for me to
get everything at the clinic," said pensioner Lee Hock Beng of Sierra Mas,
located near Sungai Buloh, when asked at another clinic there.
Misnan and Lee are among consumers who are against the idea of having
separate dispensing of medicines. There are many more who agree with Misnan and
Days earlier, this writer had stepped into a pharmacy at a shopping complex
in Rawang and was told by a pharmacist that she had to resort to selling
toiletries and personal care products, as relying on business of only
dispensing drugs is not good enough.
"Not many people come to the pharmacy with prescription slips to buy
medications, as they have acquired their medicines from private clinics when
they had gone for treatment," the pharmacist said.
DO WE NEED SEPARATE DISPENSING OF MEDICINES?
What is a dispensing separation then?
In simple words, it is the situation when a person who becomes ill visits a
doctor for consultation at a private clinic. The doctor will focus on the
diagnosis of a patient’s sickness and prescribe a drug therapy for him.
No medication, however, is available at the clinic and the patient needs to
bring the prescription slip to a pharmacy where the pharmacist will dispense the
In 2008, there were calls for separate dispensing of medicines to be
implemented in Malaysia.
According to officials in the healthcare industry, separate dispensing of
medicines in the health delivery system is a successful and time proven system
that is being used by all advanced nations.
In 1985, the Malaysian Medical Association officially agreed in a signed
Memorandum Of Understanding with the Malaysian Pharmaceutical Society that
''dispensing of medicines is a professional role of pharmacists''.
However, until now the nation’s private medical practitioners continue
dispensing medications to their patients.
SUFFICIENT NUMBER OF PHARMACIES?
Are there enough private sector pharmacists and pharmacies to do the job in
the separate dispensing of medicines?
According to the Malaysian Pharmaceutical Society, there are enough retail
pharmacists to take on separate dispensing of medicines.
Said a member of the society, T.H.Lee:" In 2002 there was one pharmacist
serving 7,851 people in this country, as against one doctor serving 1,727
"In 2002, more than 80 per cent of qualified pharmacists worked in the
"There were 2,311 pharmacists and 6,600 doctors working in the private
sector then, which gave the ration of one private pharmacist to three private
"This ratio has improved since then because there were about 600 new
pharmacists and 850 new doctors entering the working force each year in the last
few years. There is no doubt that Malaysia has sufficient number of private
sector pharmacists to serve the public," he said.
Lee said the Poisons Act 1952 allows private doctors to dispense drugs
because there were so few pharmacists in the private sector when the law was
enacted about 60 years ago.
"There are now some 5,000 pharmacists and 13 pharmacy schools at public and
private institutions of higher learning nationwide that produce an average of
600 graduates every year.
"It made better sense for patients to get their drugs from a pharmacist who
has spent four years acquiring specific knowledge on drugs, rather than from a
doctor who had more generally learnt the subject of pharmacy.
"Doctors are only familiar with medicines that they often prescribe, not
fully knowing and understanding the adverse reactions and drug interactions.
However, pharmacists are constantly in touch with the drug industry," he said.
With the separation of functions between private clinics and pharmacies,
Malaysia will join the ranks of other developed countries around the world which
have separated the role of private doctors and pharmacists.
In the last several decades, Asian countries such as Japan, South Korea,
Taiwan, the Philippines and Indonesia have joined the developed nations in
implementing separate dispensing of medicines.
However, according to the Malaysian Health Ministry, there are several
issues that need to be ironed out before it decides to implement the move.
Among the problems identified were logistics, shortages of the number of
private pharmacies and pharmacists, welfare of patients and easy accessibility
Today, there are some 5,000 registered pharmacists actively operating in
1,600 pharmacies nationwide, as compared to in 2004 when there were only 3,927
registered pharmacists with about 1,540 retail pharmacies, or one for every
ZUL INE RON