Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Option to get medication from clinics or pharmacies by next April

PETALING JAYA: Patients will soon have the option to choose between getting their medication from doctors as they do now, or to insist on the doctor giving them a prescription to buy the required drugs from a pharmacy.
It is learnt that the Health Ministry is working with the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) and the Malaysian Pharmaceutical Society (MPS) to have this choice in place by next April.
However, some issues are still to be ironed out to ensure that it is a favourable solution for doctors and pharmacists, as well as patients.
The issue of separating drug prescribing and dispensing of medication between doctors and pharmacists, has been a bone of contention for a long time, as there are pros and cons to both arguments.
"Most importantly, we need to ensure that separating these functions do not burden patients financially," said a ministry official, who declined to be identified.
"We also have to ensure there are enough pharmacists in both urban and rural areas nationwide for this system to be effective," he added.
MPS president Datuk Nancy Ho told theSun a special committee has been set up with the relevant authorities to draw up a mechanism which will ensure all parties including patients, are not shortchanged by the move.
In recent years, calls to separate the prescribing and dispensing functions have been growing.
Pharmacists argue that separation of the functions can avoid the conflicting roles of doctors who have the potential to profit from the prescription and sale of drugs, and be part of a check-and-balance system to prevent over-prescribing practices.
In many Asian countries, including Malaysia, doctors dispense drugs directly to patients, earning profits that vary with the types and amount of drugs given.
However, profits from this practice helps doctors to offset clinic costs and allow them to charge lower consultation fees.
Commenting on the proposed move, MMA president Dr H. Krishna Kumar told theSun that doctors have no objection to the separation as long as all parties, including Managed Care Organisations, agree to let them charge consultation fees (without medication) of between RM30-RM125 as per the revised rate under the 13th Schedule of the Private Healthcare Facilities and Services Act 1998 annouced last March.
He added that while doctors are fully aware the separation of functions will happen eventually, it has to take into account certain factors.
For example, he said, if the suggestion to stop doctors dispensing is adopted, there must be no double standards and it should be across the board for all doctors, irrespective of whether they are in the urban or rural areas.
"That means there must also be pharmacies and pharmacists in rural or remote areas to cater to this system. Otherwise, it will create unnecessary complications as to the fees to be charged by doctors if have to dispense medicines, especially in areas with no pharmacies," he added.
He pointed out that patients may incur extra expenses if the pharmacies are situated far from the clinics.
"The move should not inconvenience patients," said Dr Krishna.

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