Free Malaysia Today
Public interest must come first in any change in the healthcare system, say consumer groups.
PETALING JAYA: Any new law governing the dispensing of medicine must provide for the establishment of a monitoring body that protects public interest, a consumer group suggested today.
Referring to speculation that such a law is in the making, the Islamic Consumer Association of Malaysia (PPIM) cautioned against rushing the legislation without consulting all stakeholders.
Public interest should be the government’s foremost consideration, said PPIM spokesman Nazim Johan.
He said the monitoring body should be non-governmental and should regularly check on the prices of drugs “so that consumers are not cheated”.
“We need to make sure charges are regulated and there are clear guidelines issued by the authorities,” he added.
A source in the Health Ministry recently told FMT that the government had for years been contemplating taking away the right of private physicians to dispense drugs and giving it to pharmacists, as is the practice in developed countries.
Some civic groups fear that such a change would put patients at a disadvantage, particularly in the matter of pricing, but also because of the inconvenience of having to travel from clinic to pharmacy. Furthermore, doctors might feel compelled to raise consultation fees to make up for their loss of income from selling drugs.
However, supporters of the proposed change say doctors can easily abuse their current dispensing right by raising prices or giving unnecessary prescriptions.
Nazim also said the government should widely consult the public through consumer associations and other civic groups before tabling the proposed legislation.
The Federation of Malaysian Consumers Association (Fomca) agreed. Its president, N Marimuthu, called for “adequate planning” for the drafting of the law and “proper education of the public” on its implications.
“The question of affordability is a key issue,” he said. “The government must ensure that consumers are not taxed further.”