The Malaysian Pharmaceutical Society (MPS) wants the government to reveal the remaining contents of the proposed Pharmacy Bill, which is still covered under the Official Secrets Act (OSA) 1972.
MPS president Amrahi Buang said today that the government has kept silent since former health minister Dr S Subramaniam stated that the bill – which would have retained the system of allowing both doctors and pharmacists to dispense medicine – was being redrafted and finalised.
"We've not heard anything about the Pharmacy Bill since September last year. Is the government going to proceed with it or not?
"We are also unsure what is stated in the bill and will only know once it is brought to Parliament," Amrahi said in a statement.
Subramaniam was previously quoted as saying that the ministry was waiting for the Attorney-General's Chambers’ approval before the bill could be tabled in Parliament.
Consumer groups had, in the past, spoken against the bill.
The Consumers Association of Penang (CAP), for instance, urged the attorney-general last September to reject the bill as it contravenes the basic principle of medication safety.
"We hope the government will be able to shed some light on this proposed bill and inform the masses when it will be tabled in Parliament.
"Many, including pharmacists, would like to know more about the bill and how it will affect them," Amrahi added.
'Pharmacists should play a bigger role'
On a separate matter, Amrahi also stressed that pharmacists should be allowed to play a more instrumental role in supporting the government’s efforts to rebrand and upgrade healthcare in the country.
He noted that pharmacists – including community pharmacists – are trained to not just dispense medicines, but to initiate medical interventions if required.
"Being a pharmacist isn't just about dispensing medicine. Pharmacists can do so much more and help promote a healthy lifestyle.
"Pharmacists can offer their professional services, like leading sessions for those intending to quit smoking and also manage minor ailments, such as coughs, colds and pain, to name a few.”
At present, Amrahi said, the provisions of the Poisons Act 1952 allows community pharmacists with a Type A licenses to prescribe certain Group C poisons to relieve patients of their symptoms.
On top of assisting individual private practices, he added, the Health Ministry should also consider the involvement of community pharmacists in its plans to rebrand existing 1Malaysia Clinics.
According to the Health Ministry, an average of 1.3 million patients visited 1Malaysia Clinics each year since their inception in 2010.
Health Minister Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad had recently said his ministry will re-evaluate these clinics and rename them community clinics.