KUALA LUMPUR, May 11 – The Ministry of Health (MOH) will host an in-person discussion tomorrow with private general practitioners, community pharmacists, and veterinarians on the Poisons Act (Amendment) Bill 2022.
Pharmacist associations like the Malaysian Pharmacists Society (MPS) and the Malaysian Community Pharmacy Guild (MCPG), as well as doctor groups such as the Malaysian Medical Associations (MMA), the Federation of Private Medical Practitioners’ Associations, Malaysia (FPMPAM), the Medical Practitioners Coalition Association of Malaysia (MPCAM), and the Malaysia Muslim Doctors’ Association (Perdim), and veterinary groups like the Malaysia Veterinary Medical Association (MAVMA) are among the 10 groups invited.
Three representatives from each group are invited to participate in the one-hour meeting to be held in MOH’s headquarters in Putrajaya, according to the ministry’s circular dated May 9 sighted by CodeBlue.
The meeting, which will be chaired by Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin at noon tomorrow, aims to bring stakeholders together to “discuss issues” on the Poisons Amendment Bill that was tabled for first reading in the last Parliament meeting on March 14.
According to the meeting programme, a briefing on the government’s proposed amendments to the Poisons Act 1952 that regulates medicines is scheduled for 20 minutes, with a question and answer session for the 10 invited groups scheduled for another 25 minutes.
“We are going with an open mind, but we’re wondering how feedback will be documented from so many groups in 25 minutes,” MPCAM president Dr Raj Kumar Maharajah told CodeBlue.
“Basically, we are unhappy with the extensive powers to be given to enforcement officers, which, to our view, is draconian. Not giving doctors the chance to defend themselves. Laws like this will destroy the reputation of doctors forever even if found to be innocent later,” he added, when asked what MPCAM would raise at tomorrow’s meeting with MOH officials.
“It could also affect the mental health of the accused and is similar to bullying which is entrenched in the MOH and its hospitals.”
Several medical professional groups previously spoke against the Poisons amendment Bill 2022, including MMA, MPCAM, FPMPAM, and the Malaysian Dental Association (MDA).
The Poisons amendment Bill significantly increases penalties for medicine-related offences committed by health care providers and allows for clinic or pharmacy raids akin to raids for banned narcotics by strengthening government pharmacy enforcement powers.
Proposed amendments revise general penalties for offences under the Poisons Act from the maximum one-year jail term to up to five years’ imprisonment, besides increasing 17-fold the maximum quantum for fines from RM3,000 to RM50,000.
Under the amendment Bill, appointed drug enforcement officers can also search any premises and seize any drug, machinery, equipment, register, document, or computerised data by force if there is “reasonable” cause to suspect that an offence is being committed.
These include breaking open any door, gate or fence that obstructs entry into the premises and detaining any person found in the premises until the search is completed.
Many of the changes proposed in the Poisons amendment Bill 2022 are similar to existing provisions in the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952 that bans narcotics ranging from heroin to cocaine and marijuana — such as the clauses on indemnity from damages, admissibility of evidence from an agent provocateur, and seizure and forfeiture of drugs.
However, the Dangerous Drugs Act does not state that an individual cannot sue the government, unlike the Poisons amendment Bill which offers a clause that protects authorised officers from civil lawsuits or criminal prosecution for any act if it was done “in good faith and in the reasonable belief”.
The amendment Bill was tabled in the Dewan Rakyat on March 14 by Deputy Health Minister Dr Noor Azmi Ghazali for first reading; the government is expected to attempt to pass the law during the next meeting scheduled for 12 days from July 18 to August 4.