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MPS: Face mask export ban welcome, but more measures needed for front-line pharmacists

Rachel Soon
Medical Writer
20 Mar 2020
A woman in Hong Kong wears a face mask outdoors. (Photo credit: Tam Wai/Unsplash)

The MPS has called for further actions to secure the supply of medical equipment for community pharmacists by the Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs (KPDNHEP).

As of 17 March, a full export ban on surgical/medical-grade face masks, encompassing single-, double-, and three-ply, as well as N95, was gazetted as the Control of Supplies (Prohibition on Export) (Amendment) Regulations 2020. [https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2020/03/17/minister-bans-malaysia-from-exporting-face-masks/1847543]

The MPS, who had been calling for a ban on face mask exports in various press statements issued since Feb 2020, welcomed the move. However, shortly after the ban was instated, a follow-up statement by MPS president Amrahi Buang was issued on the MPS Facebook page, urging the government “to supply free face masks to private sector front-liners amidst reports of unavailability of face masks all over Malaysia.” [https://www.facebook.com/MalaysianPharmaceuticalSociety/posts/2898884536861693]

“Community pharmacists are the most accessible healthcare providers and are at risk because they are front-liners. In many cases asymptomatic patients may spread the virus to unsuspecting community pharmacists who do not have proper PPE (personal protective equipment) as they are out of stock nationwide,” said Amrahi.

He added that given pharmacies were still operating as essential services during the Movement Control Order (MCO) period between 18 and 31 March, the government needed to take proactive action to ensure adequate protection of all staff in pharmacies.

Amrahi also urged the KPDNHEP to re-examine ceiling prices for face masks as the cost price being given to healthcare professionals was in excess of the current RM0.80 price cap for three-ply masks, and many pharmacies could no longer afford to absorb the difference without compensation.

Pharmacists to educate as well as supply the public

When asked what pharmacists could do besides supplying health and medical products at this time, Amrahi said that they could focus on education in several areas, including proper hand washing techniques, social distancing, proper use of face masks and the correct situations for using them, the symptoms of COVID-19, when to seek medical intervention, and where to get treatment or screening.

“In line with advice from the MOH, the general public does not require face masks unless they are showing symptoms. Face masks should be reserved for front-liners and those who are ill,” said Amrahi, in an email interview with MIMS on 17 March.

He added that as public educators, pharmacists can also give advice to the public on how to order groceries and other daily essentials online to avoid panic buying in stores, as well as share important and official information.

National pharmacists’ convention deferred to June

The MPS has also confirmed that the National Pharmacists Convention (NPC 2020) originally scheduled for April would be postponed to June 2020 at the earliest.

“We will follow all the safety measures advised such as providing hand sanitizers, spacing out the seating, and avoiding buffet meals by providing packed meals. Other details to follow,” said MPS representatives.

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The use of capsule endoscopy (CE) appears to be effective in the diagnosis of iron deficiency anaemia (IDA), yielding a 33.9-percent yield in this study, with 65.8 percent of patients undergoing further workup and 12.7 percent requiring therapeutic intervention.
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