Focus View
Implement dispensing separation scheme in stages
FocusM team | 06 Oct 2017 00:30
The government has decided for now that doctors can dispense medication to their patients. If we recall, under the proposed Pharmacy Bill, it was proposed that under Dispensing Separation (DS), doctors would diagnose and pharmacies dispense.

But the debate on whether doctors should be allowed to dispense medication continues. In the meantime, pharmacists want medication and patient safety. It means consumers have the right to make informed buying decisions and should not be forced to buy medication from doctors. 

The Malaysian Pharmaceutical Association said patients should be educated on their rights to a prescription. It wants to make it mandatory for doctors to provide a complete prescription to a patient. 

There are instances when doctors write prescriptions without dosing instructions and patients have to return to the clinics to get them. 

This only gives ammunition to those in favour of DS. Pharmacists say they know more about drugs and drug interactions. But doctors say with them dispensing, patients needn’t travel to get their medication.

So while consumers may be happy with the current arrangement, they have to ask themselves whether they are getting the medication they deserve or are their doctors simply prescribing medication as they please? 

If pharmacies are made to dispense, then doctors will be more inclined to prescribe drugs that they do not store in their clinics due to holding costs. This would mean patients get drugs that are more targeted at their illness.  

The Consumers Association of Penang is disappointed that DS will not be implemented due to the excuse that rural patients will be inconvenienced. It pointed out countries like Indonesia and India which have large rural populations had been practising DS for years. 

Perhaps it is time for the authorities to relook at whether to introduce DS. It can be done in stages, starting with the urban areas where there are pharmacies aplenty.

It is unhealthy to indefinitely allow doctors to dispense medication. Some are bound to abuse it by colluding with drug companies to dispense only certain types of medication.

Many countries have successfully implemented DS. Eventually, Malaysia too might have to follow that path.