Pharmacists Prescribing Legal Trouble By ‘Playing Doctor’

Many patients treated in pharmacies for non-communicable and skin diseases end up in hospital.

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 27 — Pharmacists are harming patients by examining and prescribing them prescription-only medicine, a physicians’ group said.

The Medical Practitioners Coalition Association of Malaysia (MPCAM) told the Malaysian Pharmaceutical Society (MPS) to first address these illegal practices, after the pharmacists’ group made unsubstantiated allegations that private health facilities, which lack pharmacists and do not separate the prescribing and dispensing of medicines, may be ignoring medication errors unlike their government counterparts.

MPCAM urged MPS to provide statistics of medication mistakes in the private sector and said if the latter’s claims were true, these errors could be rectified by doctors employing pharmacists in general practitioner (GP) clinics to maintain these facilities as one-stop centres.

“It’s surprising that while the MPS is very concerned about patient safety, they seem to not want to address other glaring issues which affect patient safety,” MPCAM president Dr Raj Kumar Maharajah said in a statement to CodeBlue.

“Pharmacists do not examine and treat patients in public facilities, but seem to do so in private facilities. Patients are being examined and treated in pharmacies without proper clinical notes or medical records and it becomes difficult when complications arise, and safety compromised to the patient’s health.”

Dr Raj Kumar said many patients treated in pharmacies continuously for non-communicable and skin diseases for years have ended up in hospital.

“The public should be made aware of their rights — that a pharmacist is not trained to examine and treat illnesses. The MPCAM is very concerned regarding these unethical practices which compromise patient safety,” the physician said.

“The rakyat must be made aware that pharmacists who misdiagnose and play doctor can be hauled up in court.”

Dr Raj Kumar Maharajah, Medical Practitioners Coalition Association of Malaysia (MPCAM) president

He urged the Health Ministry to regulate pharmacies, like GP clinics, under the Private Healthcare Facilities and Services Act 1998.

“Currently private pharmacy outlets are not regulated and are free to sell even provision items,” Dr Raj Kumar said, referring to non-medical items like snacks and personal products.

MPS president Amrahi Buang said Wednesday that a medication safety report by the Health Ministry on government hospitals and clinics showed that most reports came from government facilities, unlike the private sector who “may not be bothered by this”. He cited 2018 statistics that found about 72 per cent of medication errors occurred during prescribing.

Dr Raj Kumar previously claimed that medication errors are hardly made in private clinics because they are run by senior GPs who see primary care cases repeatedly.

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