Pharmacists urge stakeholders to stop working in silos

Drugs

The Malaysian Pharmaceutical Society (MPS) supports the call for an increase in consultation fees by general practitioners (GP) during a recent town hall session with the Health Ministry – provided community pharmacists can dispense medicine to create an integrated healthcare ecosystem in the country.

The organisation said an increase in consultation fees, which has been highlighted by GPs over the years, will result in them not relying on selling medicines to earn a living – something they have been doing all this while.

“If the powers-that-be address the consultation fee issue, then patients should be able to decide where to buy medicines,” said MPS president Amrahi Buang.

“If a patient requests for their prescription, the doctor should give it to them. But will that happen?”

“If a GP refuses to give the prescription, what can a patient do?

“If the matter concerning fees is been addressed but GPs still insist on selling medicines, then this gives the presumption that GPs only want to increase their income at the expense of the patient.”

Amrahi said he would also like to know how the government will ensure patients are handed their prescriptions upon request.

“By right, the onus is on the GPs to give the prescription.”

Such a move will see the rise of patient empowerment –being able to control their health management to reduce dependence on physicians for a better quality of life.

The World Health Organisation’s (WHO) “Health 2020” initiative sets patient empowerment as the main goal for achieving better results in healthcare.

Malaysia scored 70 per cent in the universal health coverage (UHC) index as stated in the 2017 Global Monitoring Report: Tracking Universal Health Coverage.

Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad, at the 72nd World Health Assembly in Geneva on May 21, said the government will strengthen public-private partnership with the establishment of the Health Advisory Council.

An integrated system, instead of a partnership, will help break the silos within the industry which will benefit the people, especially those from the B40 and M40 groups.

“To form any partnership we need to be fully integrated especially regarding UHC. We want the whole healthcare system integrated. Right now it is very ‘silo-ed’.

“There seems to be control in the public sector, but there’s no control in the private sector as there are dominant players.”

The lack of awareness regarding non-communicable diseases (NCD) in Malaysia compared to other nations is the main cause of the plateauing lifespan of Malaysians at around 75 years.

“This is where pharmacists and doctors should join forces and be the primary healthcare team to support patient care and educate the masses,” said Amrahi.

“The new schemes by the government for the B40 group – mySalam and Skim Peduli Kesihatan B40 – should involve community pharmacists as our pharmacists are trained and competent in responding to symptoms and are able to prescribe a wide range of medications under the category of Group C scheduled medications.”

“Pharmacists are willing to support the government’s aspiration of UHC.

“Our community pharmacists are easily accessible to all. Furthermore, the prices of medicines are very much transparent compared to GPs and private hospitals.

“The allocation via these healthcare cards go a long way if patients are able to see community pharmacists for minor ailments.”

MPS had repeatedly urged the decision makers to adopt dispensing separation to allow community pharmacists to play a bigger role to serve the community.

There are over 2,780 community pharmacies in urban and rural areas nationwide. However, community pharmacists have always been seen as mere medicine sellers. This view has to be corrected.

“Community pharmacists are part of the community. We are medical experts, we are guardians of medicine and we are healthcare professionals.

“A strong referral system which involves community pharmacists referring patients to GPs can greatly benefit the rakyat,” Amrahi added.