PETALING JAYA - Instead of getting their medicine from private clinics, patients will have to obtain it from pharmacies if the Health Ministry accepts the proposed "Doctors diagnose, pharmacists dispense" system.
While the system may cause some inconvenience to patients, pharmacists say it will help bring down the prices of medicine and give doctors access to many more drugs to prescribe.
It is learnt that doctors and pharmacists have held several discussions on the issue over the last year and they plan to meet the Health Minister soon.
They are represented by the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA), Medical Practitioners Coalition Association of Malaysia, Islamic Medical Association of Malaysia, Malaysian Pharmaceutical Society (MPS) and Malaysian Community Pharmacy Guild (MCPG).
According to MCPG president Wong Sie Sing, the five organisations had, at their last meeting on Nov 8, agreed in principle that dispensing be left to pharmacists.
Representatives of pharmacists later met Health Ministry director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah on Nov 26.
He said the two professions met to work out a timeframe to introduce the new system, adding: "I hope we can implement it by April." Debate on the issue has been going on from as far back as 2008.
"If pharmacists are allowed to dispense, doctors would have access to 10 times more drugs to prescribe than what they have in stock. This will benefit the patients," Wong said.
MCPG represents more than 2,000 community pharmacies employing some 2,500 pharmacists.
MPS president Datuk Nancy Ho said patients would receive further counselling from another group of well-trained healthcare professionals if pharmacists were to dispense medication.
"The check-and-balance reduces prescription and dispensing errors. Dispensing separation is about professional medication management and only pharmacists are trained in this specialised practice. We know everything about a drug's healing value and possible harm," she said.
MMA president Dr H. Krishna Kumar confirmed that the associations had met on the proposed new system but said nothing had been agreed on yet.
Dr Noor Hisham confirmed meeting representatives of pharmacists, and said they discussed about integrating and consolidating the Pharmacy Act.
Stating that nothing had been decided on, he stressed that the ministry's main priority was to ensure quality and safety.
Universiti Sains Malaysia (School of Pharmaceutical Sciences) Assoc Prof Mohamed Azmi Ahmad Hasalli said a 2013 study of 40 clinics and 100 pharmacies in Penang found that doctors dispensed more medicine and antibiotics and charged more than pharmacists.