KUALA LUMPUR: A new law giving patients the right to get their medicine from either doctors or pharmacists is expected to be tabled in the Dewan Rakyat soon.
Health Minister Dr S Subramaniam said the Pharmacy Bill was now with the Attorney-General’s Chambers.
“We feel that the current system should be allowed to continue but we are liberalising it a bit, giving patients a choice of where to get their medicine,” he told reporters when asked for updates on the bill.
The proposed Pharmacy Bill, which would see doctors being restricted to only diagnosing and prescribing medicine, and pharmacies dispensing them, has been talked about for years, but has yet to be tabled.
Some doctors have argued that Malaysia is not yet ready for it, especially in rural areas.
However, last year, it was reported that pharmacists had objected to five provisions in the draft bill, citing insufficient protection of consumer rights and patients.
“Patients can have a choice. If you want a prescription from the doctor, he has to give it to the patient with the name of the medicine so that the pharmacist can dispense it,” Subramaniam said.
He was speaking to reporters after giving a speech at the Medical Travel Market Intelligence conference today.
The Federation of Malaysian Consumers Association (Fomca) had recently said patients of private clinics must be given the option to decide where they want to get their medicine.
There had been a debate over the need to separate the roles of doctors and pharmacists, with doctors saying they have a right to dispense medicine too.
Subramaniam said the provision in the Pharmacy Bill was based on local conditions and cost.
“For instance, patients could be inconvenienced if they could only buy medicine at pharmacies. This is especially if the nearest pharmacy is located far from the clinic where the patient obtained the prescription.
“We have to look at the situation in small towns where the nearest pharmacy might be located 30km away.
“Or the patient goes to a clinic at midnight and gets a prescription but he may not get the medicine till the next day,” he said.
Subramaniam added that these were among the reasons for not dismantling the current system, and that such a decision was only made after discussions with the relevant stakeholders.