ARE MALAYSIANS READY FOR SEPARATE DISPENSING OF MEDICINES?

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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

Lee.

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

drugs.

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

people.

"In 2002, more than 80 per cent of qualified pharmacists worked in the

private sector.

"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

doctors.

"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.

POISONS ACT

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.

ISSUES

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

to pharmacies.

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

16,445 Malaysians.

-- BERNAMA

ZUL INE RON

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