MMA urges for doctors to be allowed to dispense simple OTC medicines

The Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) has expressed its objection to the actions taken by the Ministry of Health’s (MOH) Pharmacy Enforcement Unit (PEU) against doctors who dispense over-the-counter medications in their clinics.

MMA president Dr. Ravindran R. Naidu said PEUs actions are causing inconvenience to the patients.

“If sundry shops, traditional Chinese medicine shops and convenience stores can sell OTC medi­cation like paracetamol, why can’t clinics?” he asked.

Dr. Ravindran said many patients bought drugs from pharmacies without a prescription or being reviewed by doctors, adding that pharmacists selling controlled drugs without a prescription is even more dangerous.

There should be discussions with the ministry to ensure regulations are clear, he added.

His comments came in the wake of a letter sent to the ministry’s top officials, complaining about “victimisation” by the pharmacy enforcement unit.

It is learned that the letter was sent by an organisation representing doctors (not MMA).The letter detailed the “heavy-handed action” taken in the last six months by the unit in raiding their clinics.

“PEU officers are even calling up our patients and asking all sorts of questions. The patients are anxious and it creates mistrust between them and their doctor,” said a source.

Previously, he said there was no issue with patients who got their medicine from the clinic without being examined. “Now, it’s a problem,” the source added.

The Medical Practitioners Coalition Association of Malaysia president Dr. Peter Chan spoke out against cases where the PEU made police reports against doctors for “preventing a government officer from carrying out his duties” when they declined to divulge patients’ details.

He said patients’ cards at clinics should not be confiscated nor patients be contacted by the PEU.

The Private Health Care Facilities and Services Act states that patient information can only leave the clinic by way of a court order.

Such details are also protected under the Medical Act and Personal Data Protection Act, he added.

As for the role of doctors and pharmacists in dispensing medication, Dr. Chan called for the definition of “patient” to be clarified.

Since 1952, the Poisons Act has allowed patients to buy medicine from clinics, he said. But now, after 55 years, Section 19 limits the sale of medicine to a doctor’s patient so clinics are not allowed to be dispense medications anymore.

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