KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 22 – Companies are opting to deal directly with pharmacies to procure medicines, to save on their operational costs, as private clinics and hospitals charge exorbitant prices for the drugs.
The Star quoted a source from the pharmaceutical industry as saying that drugs obtained from pharmacies cost the employers between 20 per cent and 150 per cent less than the prices charged by the private clinics and private hospitals.
“As such, buying directly from the pharmacy can help them to tremendously reduce their medical bills.”
“There is no price control to regulate the cost of these medicines and employers have no choice then but to bear the cost,” the unnamed source was quoted saying.
The report said that companies whose employees are on long-term medications, realised that they saved as much as 40 per cent, if they buy the drugs directly from independent pharmacies.
The direct purchase also allowed the companies save millions of ringgits yearly in staff medical benefits.
However, it is unclear whether these said “companies” are firms that provide healthcare benefits for their employees, or whether they are actually managed care organisations (MCOs).
MCOs offer managed health care plans by contracting with insurers or employers.
“While the doctors’ role is to diagnose and treat a patient, the pharmacists oversee the dispensing of the drugs, to ensure the appropriate use of medications and medication safety,” the report quoted Malaysian Pharmaceutical Society treasurer Lim Jack Shen saying, adding that doctors and pharmacists could collaborate to expand their knowledge.
“Each of the prescriptions issued by the doctors has a validity of three months under the Health Ministry regulation and requirements.
“As such, pharmacists dispensing these drugs would require the patients to get a fresh prescription every three months, to ensure they undergo proper medical review and check-up,” he said.
Separately, the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) president Dr N. Ganabaskaran opined that it is within the patient’s right to get their medicine directly from the pharmacy, provided the patients adhere to the existing law on prescription and dispensing of drugs and that they continue their visits to a doctor for follow-ups and monitoring of drugs adherence, compliance and review the outcome of the treatment.
“Clinics are stringently regulated under the Private Healthcare Facilities and Services Act to protect the patients. Pharmacy outlets are not regulated.”
He added that there is a concern that the patients’ safety and care being compromised through such programmes.