Materia Medica Malaysiana

March 29, 2008

Move will not necessarily cost patients more

Filed under: Uncategorized — malaysianmedicine @ 11:59 am

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: Contrary to public perception, separating the doctor’s function as a healer and as a provider of medicine will not necessarily cost patients more.
Malaysian Pharmaceutical Society president John Chang Chiew Pheng said this was because consumers would have the choice of drugs.
“Many doctors usually dispense the more branded and expensive medicines simply because they get incentives and bonuses from the drug companies.
“When the consumers get their medication and make up their minds whether to get branded or generic drugs, they end up saving money.
“The Poisons Act 1952 allows for doctors to dispense drugs because there were hardly any pharmacists when the law was passed,” he said.
There are now roughly 5,000 pharmacists and 13 pharmacy schools in the country that produce an average of 600 graduates every year.
Chang also said that with serious risks to health due to improper medication, it made better sense for patients to get their drugs from a pharmacist who would have spent four years acquiring the knowledge than from a doctor who had none.
“Doctors are only familiar with medicines that they often prescribe, not knowing adverse reactions and drug interactions. However, pharmacists are constantly in touch with the drugs industry,” he said.
With the separation of functions between clinics and pharmacies, Malaysia will join the ranks of other developed countries around the world which separate the role of doctors and pharmacists.
In the last 30 years, Asian countries like Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines and Indonesia have implemented the separation with varying degrees of success.
When South Korean health officials enforced the separation in 2000, tens of thousands of doctors took to the streets and forced clinics around the country to close for three days.
The various countries also experienced teething problems such as administrational confusion when charging corporate patients seeking treatment in panel clinics or claiming health insurance.
Separation laws in several countries also had loopholes, abused by pharmacists who were in cahoots with doctors for patient referrals in exchange for kickbacks.
All this, Chang admitted, could very well also happen in Malaysia if the separation was not closely enforced and scrutinised.

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