Hospital Sultanah Aminah Johor Bahru

Sunday, December 12, 2004

What up doc said - in defense mode.

From The Star

MMA: Government doctors not over-prescribing


KUALA LUMPUR: Government doctors are not over-prescribing medicine. The high government spending for medicine is because the drugs to treat chronic illnesses such as heart diseases, diabetes, high blood pressure are generally expensive, said the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA).

MMA president Datuk Dr N. Arumugam said if government hospitals stopped giving chronic illness medicine free or cheap to patients, this might discourage some patients from taking the medication without them realising this would cause them serious medical complications.

“If you lose out on early treatment of these diseases, then you are going to transfer the cost of medicine to the cost of hospitalisation,” he said.

On Friday, Deputy Health Minister Dr Abdul Latif Ahmad said the Government spent RM800mil a year on medicine. He believed a substantial amount of money could be saved if doctors did not over-prescribe drugs, adding that some even prescribed five days' treatment with antibiotics for a simple viral infection.

Dr Arumugam said it was always difficult to say what the appropriate prescription should be for each individual because some come from far away and waited for hours before they could see the doctor.

“Asking them to come back after two days might not be appropriate as it bogs down the already crowded government hospitals.”

He stressed that drugs for chronic illnesses made up the bulk of expenses.

“One of the reasons the government spending for medicine is up is because we have become more efficient in treating the chronically ill.”

Dr Arumugam said the Government should continue to supply the poor with medicine for free and charge the moderate-income group a nominal fee of RM3 or RM5.

He also pointed out that some big companies and multinationals exploited government hospitals to keep medical bills down, sending their employees with chronic illnesses there to get free medicine.

Social activist Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye said: ”If the Government decides not to prescribe free medicine, it must ensure the poor will continue to get free medication.”

Dr Latif had said that the Government would ask patients to buy medicine from private pharmacies, adding that the poor, however, would continue to get them for free.

National Association of Malaysian Government Pensioners president Tan Sri Abdullah Ayub said it was reasonable for the Government to expect patients to pay a little more for medicine.


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