There is an ongoing debate on this issue following the statement last week by the Health Ministry's director-general Dr Ismail Merican that soon, doctors would only be allowed to issue prescriptions but patients needed to obtain their medication from pharmacies.
Currently, doctors especially at private clinics diagnose diseases, prescribe medicines and dispense them to patients.
That is about to change.
I think I am comfortable with the current arrangement -- visiting my doctor and getting the medicine from him (at his attached dispensary). So easy and convenient. No hassle.
Doctors and pharmacists, of course, have differing views on this. Read this and this.
In arguing the case, the point on profit-making by either side has been made.
As far as I, the consumer, am concerned -- it should be about my convenience.
If patients have to get their medicine from pharmacies, make sure that the pharmacies are located near clinics and that pharmacies and clinics have the same operating hours.
I remember that some time ago, I needed to get a particular medicine after 6pm at a particular pharmacy but I was told that the pharmacist was working from 10am to 6pm.
So, my point is that any change to the present arrangement should only be effected when everything is in place.
You know how we are so good at introducing changes and these changes fail to meet the desired results because of poor management and administration and because not everything is in place.
Dr Ismail said "soon" we, the consumers, will have to do two things in order to get better -- 1. to have our condition diagnosed by a doctor who will prescribe the medication and 2. head to a pharmacy to get our medication.
Let's hope by the time that "soon" takes place, consumers will not be burdened.
Doctors and pharmacists can argue till kingdom come about the merits and demerits of the issue but ultimately, it is the interest, well-being and welfare of patients that are paramount.
By the way, this proposal is not new.