MMA president urges health minister to withdraw proposed Poisons Act amendment Bill

Soo Wern Jun
MMA president Dr N. Ganabaskaran speaks during a press conference at Malaysian Medical Association headquarters in Kuala Lumpur November 13, 2019. — Picture by Hari Anggara

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 2 — Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) president Dr N. Ganabaskaran today urged  Health Minister Datuk Seri Dzulkelfy Ahmad to withdraw the proposed Poisons Act 1952 amendment Bill.

Dr Ganabaskaran said the amendments made appear to have been drawn up without proper consultation with medical professionals, especially private medical practitioners who will be most affected by it.

Citing an example, Dr Ganabaskaran said the amendment to Section 19 of the Act which provides for a mandatory prescription on the patient’s request should be removed.

“The Malaysian Medical Council (MMC) has heard cases of complaints against registered medical practitioners for refusing to provide prescriptions on request and has the power to fine, reprimand, suspend or remove from the medical register any practitioner found guilty of this offence,” he said in a statement.

He added that both the Medical Act and the Private Healthcare Facilities and Services Act provide for patients to receive on request any information about his or her disease and treatment, including the drugs prescribed.

As reported yesterday, the proposed new provision in the Bill aims to protect patients’ rights by giving them the option to decide where to fill their prescriptions.

Dzulkefly reportedly said this would not restrict registered medical practitioners from providing medicine to their patients if they choose to get their prescriptions at their medical facilities.

He said while MMA understands the motivation behind the inclusion of a clause on electronic prescriptions, it believes this needs to be much more comprehensive.

“In particular, it should be part of a broader range of measures to regulate online provision of healthcare.

“Without swift action, the proliferation of apps purporting to provide online consultation and treatment will lead to an unhealthy environment where patients never meet their doctors and in theory could select from a menu of symptoms to get the medications they want,” he said.

He added that this could also lead to unregulated antibiotic use, suboptimal treatment of non-communicable diseases and abuse of benzodiazepines which will cause a whole new public health nightmare.

“We urge the Health Ministry not to proceed further with the Bill, but to withdraw it and engage with us in a spirit of sincerity to produce the updated version of the nearly seventy-year-old Act that the country needs,” he added.

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