Prescriptions Ensure Best Care For Patients, Says Pharmacist

Pharmacists know the serious implications of prescription drugs like antidepressants.

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 20 — A community pharmacist today refuted claims that issuing prescriptions to patients would affect doctors’ income.

Bharati Suresh Chand, vice-president II of pharmacists’ group Malaysian Pharmaceutical Society (MPS), said issuing prescriptions ensured that patients received the best care from diagnosis, to screening of the prescription, labeling, dispensing, and patient counselling.

“Pharmacists work and get along very well with general practitioners (GPs), in referring and assisting patients to achieve their optimal health,” Bharati wrote in a letter to New Straits Times.

“I urge doctors to provide prescriptions to allow patients to seek counselling from pharmacists.”

Bharati, a community pharmacist who has been practicing for over 20 years, also denied allegations that some community pharmacies dispensed antidepressants and antipsychotic drugs without a doctor’s prescription, pointing out that stiff fines were imposed on offenders.

Former Malaysian Medical Association Penang branch chairman Dr Tan Chee Khuan recently alleged that pharmacies, especially chain outlets, were dispensing such prescription medicines without a doctor’s prescription.

“I have had so many patients with depression, and pharmacists know the serious implications of these drugs, that monitoring and blood tests are vital to avoid side effects,” Bharati said in response.

Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said in a statement last Tuesday that the Health Ministry welcomed any complaints from the public about the sale of prescription drugs without a doctor’s prescription.

According to him, health officials conducted 380 raids on pharmacies between 2017 and 2019, as well as 205 raids on private clinics and 3,584 raids on other unlicensed premises like drug stores, beauty salons, and traditional and complementary medicine stores, among others, in the same period.

Bharati said today that his patients often found advice from pharmacists to be valuable, especially when using complementary medicine.

“If you were to combine a supplement like St John’s Wort with antidepressants like SSRIs (citalopram, escitalopram, fluexetine, paroxetinesertraline), you could end up with disastrous results. St John’s Wort can cause a build-up of serotonin in the body when taken with antidepressants.

“This can result in serotonin syndrome, which causes side effects. Serotonin syndrome can even result in death,” said the pharmacist.

Bharati said pharmacists today provide various services, such as complementary medicine management, diabetes management, wound care, and smoking cessation.

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