KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 28 – The Health Ministry has tabled an amendment to the Poisons Act 1952 in Parliament to legislate patients’ requests for drug prescriptions from their doctors.
According to a list on Parliament’s official website, the Poisons (Amendment) 2019 Bill was tabled for first reading last Monday by Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad.
The new Bill, if passed, will make it mandatory for doctors to provide prescriptions upon request from patients, failing which they will be guilty of an offence that is punishable by a maximum RM50,000 fine, up to five years’ imprisonment, or both.
The amendment Bill proposes an additional subsection 2A to Section 19 of the Poisons Act on the supply of poisons for the purpose of treatment that says “a registered medical practitioner, registered dentist or registered veterinary surgeon shall, upon request from his patient or client, issue a prescription for the sale or supply of such poison for the purpose of medical or dental treatment of such patient or animal treatment of animal tended by him, respectively.”
An amendment was proposed to Section 19(4) to state that registered medical practitioners, dentists, or veterinary surgeons who “decline to issue a prescription upon request by his patient or client” shall be guilty of an offence.
Separately, the amendment Bill also created a new provision on electronic prescriptions, Section 21(2A), where they are to be signed with a digital signature and sent to a registered pharmacist as an electronic message.
Pharmacists have previously lobbied for mandatory prescriptions regardless of patients’ requests.
Malaysian Pharmaceutical Society president Amrahi Buang, in August, called for a review of the current government policy that mandates prescriptions only upon patients’ request, rather than a blanket rule, citing 2018 statistics by the Medication Error Reporting System (MERS) under the Health Ministry that found about 72 per cent of medication errors occurred during the prescribing process, of which about 93 per cent was reported by pharmacists.
Despite calls for separating the prescribing and dispensing of medicines to doctors and pharmacists respectively, the new Bill only speaks on mandatory prescriptions upon request, rather than making it compulsory for doctors to give a prescription to patients, regardless of it being requested or not.
Doctors have opposed dispensing separation amid stagnant consultation fees, with the Medical Practitioners Coalition Association of Malaysia claiming that general practitioners (GPs) are capable of dispensing the medicines that they prescribe.
Correction note: The Poisons (Amendment) 2019 Bill enhanced the punishment for offences against the Poisons Act from maximum one-year’s jail, a fine not exceeding RM3,000, or both to maximum five-years’ jail, a fine not exceeding RM50,000, or both. Under the Bill, declining to issue prescriptions upon patients’ request is defined as an offence against the Act. The article has since been corrected to reflect the new proposed punishments.