THE Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) has requested that the Government review the proposed penalties and fine-tune the powers of pharmacy enforcement officers in the Poisons Amendment Bill 2022.
The bill to amend the existing Poisons Act 1952 was tabled for the first reading in Parliament last Monday. It was previously tabled for first reading back in Nov 2019 but was subsequently withdrawn to be reviewed and refined.
MMA president Dr Koh Kar Chai said that the proposed amendments to the act have been “long time coming” and that the act needs to be updated as the landscape in healthcare has significantly changed in recent years.
After the Poisons (Amendment) Bill 2019 was tabled for first reading on Nov 25, 2019, it was withdrawn from its scheduled tabling on Nov 5, 2020 for it to be reviewed and refined for the benefit of all quarters.
However, Dr Koh urged the Health Ministry to review several proposals to impose heftier fines and longer jail time for certain offences in the bill.
“The issue of massive fines has always been a contentious issue and more so, the proposal to increase jail time,” he commented.
“We have always felt that certain offenses may not justify an increase in the jail sentence or even the presence of imprisonment as it will cause criminalisation of certain offences which may be trivial and not endanger the health of anyone.
“With an increase in fines and the imposition of a jail sentence, many doctors will practice with the Sword of Damocles hanging over their heads, more so, when the powers of pharmacy enforcement officers are enhanced.”
Under the proposed Poisons Amendment Bill 2022, the general penalties for offences will include a maximum five years jail term, a compound of RM50,000, or both.
Currently, the maximum jail term is one year and the maximum fine is RM3,000.
In addition to allowing pharmacy enforcement officers to raid premises and seize drugs or other related items the bill also protects the officers from civil lawsuits and criminal prosecutions for actions deemed necessary in order to enforce the Poisons Act.
“The association hopes that there will be a relook at the proposed penalties as well as a fine-tuning on the powers of the pharmacy enforcement officers,” Dr Koh commented.
“These were all brought up in the engagements with the Health Ministry. If the bill is passed, we will need to look into the regulations which we hope will clear up our reservations of the proposed amendments.”
When tabling the bill on Monday (March 14) Deputy Health Minister Datuk Dr Noor Azmi Ghazali said that the bill will be tabled for second reading during the current Dewan Rakyat sitting. – March 16, 2022
Main photo credit: NST