Stop indiscriminate blood tests, says medical association

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PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) says the health ministry should implement the Pathology Laboratories 2007 bill without further delay to protect patients from “indiscriminate and unwarranted” blood tests.

MMA president Dr Ravindran R Naidu said such tests were offered to members of the public by private laboratories nationwide at companies, schools, banks and even shopping centres, often at discounted prices to make them more attractive.

“There is no place for routine batteries of tests in an asymptomatic person and, in particular, routine tests on cancer markers without any symptoms or signs,” he said in a statement today.

He said this could create unnecessary anxiety as a certain number of tests are bound to show abnormal results in a totally healthy person. He added that this was even more pertinent in the case of routine cancer marker tests, in which abnormal results are usually a false alarm.

“The anxiety involved in false alarms triggered by the blood tests can be significant, and on occasion patients may have to undergo multiple invasive tests which may result in real harm just to prove the false alarm.”

Indiscriminate blood tests also create a conflict of interest for doctors working in laboratories who may be obliged to order such tests as part of their duties, Ravindran added.

He said some laboratories even sold vitamins and nutritional supplements to patients who had received supposedly abnormal test results.

“This practice may endanger patients’ health whereby the need for proper treatment may be neglected,” he said.

Pointing out that the Pathology Laboratories Act had been passed only 24 years after it was first mooted in 1983, he asked how much longer Malaysians must wait before it is put into practice.

“The act seeks to ensure that laboratory testing services are accountable to the public, meet required standards of practice, participate in quality assurance programmes, are run by qualified staff, comply with safety requirements and are subject to continuous audit.

“We are still awaiting the finalisation of the regulation and its implementation. Meanwhile, the ongoing public health harm due to unregulated laboratory practices continues unabated.”

Adding that it had been 10 years since the act was passed in 2007, he urged the health ministry to implement it immediately in the interests of public health.