One Year, Two Governments Later, Poisons Bill Fails To Get Through Parliament

Under proposed amendments to the Poisons Act 1952, doctors, dentists, and vets violating mandatory prescriptions upon request face maximum five years’ jail, up to RM50,000 fine, or both.

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 4 — The Perikatan Nasional (PN) government withdrew today the Poisons (Amendment) 2019 Bill from second reading in the Dewan Rakyat, marking the third postponement of proposed amendments to the law regulating medicines.

The Poisons (Amendment) 2019 Bill — which proposed to incarcerate doctors, dentists, and vets by up to five years for not providing drug prescriptions requested by their patients — was first tabled in Parliament one year ago in November 2019 by the-then Pakatan Harapan (PH) administration.

Groups representing medical practitioners widely opposed the proposed criminalisation of violating mandatory prescriptions upon request, after CodeBlue broke the news about the tabling of the Poisons Bill in Parliament, with doctors claiming that they were not consulted about the legislation.

Backlash from doctors, dentists, and veterinarian groups forced the PH government to postpone in December 2019 the second reading of the Bill. Then the PN government delayed the Bill in August during the second Parliament meeting of 2020; the first Dewan Rakyat meeting of the year in May was cut short by the PN administration to a single-day sitting amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Today, Deputy Health Minister Dr Noor Azmi Ghazali made a motion during the third Dewan Rakyat meeting of the year to withdraw the Poisons (Amendment) 2019 Bill.

The proposed amendments to the Poisons Act 1952 would effectively criminalise doctors, dentists, and veterinarians who decline to issue drug prescriptions requested by patients, as they would be found guilty of an offence that is punishable by a maximum RM50,000 fine, up to five years’ imprisonment, or both.

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