PETALING JAYA - A total of 17 medical associations have called on the Health Minister to do away with the proposal to separate the dispensing of medicine.
The proposal comes with the Pharmacy Bill, which if passed, will require patients to visit a pharmacy separately after seeing a doctor to get medicine, as opposed to the current system of receiving medication from the doctor.
The organisations, made up of medical doctors, dentists and veterinarians, signed a memorandum to oppose the proposed changes during a forum organised by the Federation of Private Medical Practitioners' Malaysia (FPMPAM) last Saturday.
FPMPAM president Dr Steven Chow said the current physician-based system was cost-saving, convenient, patient-centric and preferred by patients and the public.
"Those who oppose this existing system have not produced proper studies indicating the ill-effects or negative aspects of this system in Malaysia.
"Any move to create a system of dispensing separation has to first obtain the views of the public," he said in a press statement.
Dr Chow said this was because countries where dispensing was separate usually had a single third-party payment system - such as social health insurance.
"In Malaysia, private healthcare service is fee-for-service, paid out-of-pocket by the patient or by private funds.
"Thus, the patient's preference is paramount. The right of where to get medication is the patient's right and should not be taken away," he said.
Among others, the signatories of the memorandum urged the minister to ensure that the right of choice for medication dispensing remained with patients.
They also called on the minister to expunge from the proposed Bill all clauses that hinder the legal rights of doctors and all authorised professionals to dispense permitted medicine.
Dr Chow said dispensing separation was "a dangerous move" and would create a monopoly in the supply of medication used in the treatment of common diseases.
"Any enforced withdrawal of the dispensing function of doctors is the first step by the pharmaceutical industry to control the import, supply, access, sales and price of medicine," he said.