MPS: Safe and effective medicines should be for all
World Pharmacists Day is celebrated on 25 September every year. In conjunction with the celebration, the theme for this year was ‘Safe and Effective Medicines for All’.
The theme was chosen by the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP), an international pharmacy body, to promote the important roles of pharmacists in ensuring patient safety via rational use of medicines and the reduction of medication errors.
“Pharmacists use their knowledge and unique specialties to ensure the public get the best benefit out of their medications … that medicines remain accessible, are taken the right way, improve medication compliance, improve transition of care, and so much more,” said Dominique Jordan, FIP President. “Moreover, pharmacists are now responsible for ensuring zero harm is caused to patients whenever medications are involved.”
The theme focused on three main important aspects of medicines: safety, efficacy, and inclusion of all stakeholders, especially our fellow patients. In the Malaysian context, the role of pharmacists is to ensure that medicines are of quality, in addition to being safe and efficacious for the public.
In terms of government policy, all medicines in the market are registered with the Drug Control Authority (DCA) of the MOH. Pharmacists play a significant role in the regulatory aspect as we are not only involved in medicines (product) registration, but we also do post-marketing surveillance via pharmacovigilance.
Pharmacy enforcement adds another protection layer in terms of medication safety by ensuring action is taken, according to the present laws, on non-registered medicines detected for sale. This includes online medication sales as well as illegal advertisements.
The issue of medication safety is huge under the dichotomous healthcare system in Malaysia as it directly involves the wellbeing of the rakyat. While it is heavily emphasized in government healthcare facilities, the same cannot be said of the private sector. A lack of pharmacists and dispensing separation in private healthcare illustrates a huge gap in that aspect.
This year’s World Patient Safety Day on 17 September, with its theme of ‘Speak Up for Patient Safety’, highlighted the importance of patient and medication safety. On 8 August, Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad also released a statement regarding a policy whereby doctors in private clinics must issue a prescription to patients upon request. This ties in heavily with the issue on medication safety as a lack of prescriptions, or any screening done by pharmacists prior to medication dispensing, is a clear risk which puts the patient in harm’s way. This was shown in a report by the MOH which indicated most safety reports came from government facilities, in comparison to the private sector.
The MOH’s Pharmaceutical Services Programme has taken multiple initiatives to empower the public and patients—among whom health literacy is still low—on quality use of medicines and knowledge on diseases through various programmes such as the Quality Use of Medicines Programme, Duta Kenali Ubat and Duta Prihatin Masyarakat.
The biggest and most significant impact contributed by pharmacists would be to ensure medication compliance in patients. Only through good compliance can the success of a treatment be determined, and for the medication to work as intended. Non-compliance will result in further complications in their disease and treatment regime.
Therefore, it can be concluded that pharmacists are medications experts in ensuring safe and effective medicines for patients. Our role in medication safety is undisputed for the sake of effective treatment for patients.