DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER General Chatchai Sarikulya yesterday dismissed speculation that the soon-to-be proposed drug bill would benefit investors in the private sector.
“The drug bill is meant to primarily benefit members of the public,” he said.
“This government has stepped in to solve many long-standing issues. The prime minister has been emphasising that public health [measures] must focus on public benefits and adhere to Public Health Ministry and Food and Drug Administration [FDA] policies.”
However, he admitted that officials had not adequately informed the public about certain contentious points in the bill, adding that he had instructed FDA secretary-general Wanchai Sattayawuthipong to speedily work on that.
Several aspects of the FDA-proposed legislation have been contentious, particularly an article that allows drugs to be dispensed by medical staff other than qualified pharmacists.
This has prompted speculation on social media that investors could exploit this loophole by covering the licence fees for non-qualified people to operate pharmacies or even make medicine available in convenience stores.
This week, the Community Pharmacy Association has called on pharmacists across the nation to voice their opposition to the proposal.
Public Health Minister Dr Piyasakol Sakolsatayadorn responded by calling on related professional groups to jointly come up with solutions instead of criticising the proposed legislation as individuals.
He said it was time to change the 50-year-old law that has in many parts proven to be too difficult to change.
“The contentious points can be discussed and agreed-upon details can be issued as ministerial regulations, so there would be no need for over-reaction or disunity. People’s input is still welcome when the bill reaches the Council of State and the National Legislative Assembly,” he said.
‘Plenty of good points’
Wanchai, however, said this drug bill should move forward as it has many good points, including a review of registered drugs every seven years. He said such reviews are necessary for public safety and will help get rid of problematic medicines. Currently, registered drugs can be sold forever if no problems surface.
“Also, the bill will only allow licensed pharmacists to open a pharmacy and the enforcement of this regulation will be stronger,” he said.
He also said that pharmacies opened under the old law could continue operating until the ownership changes hands, then they will have to be run by qualified pharmacists. Under the old law, unqualified people could open pharmacies, he pointed out.
He also said that the idea to allow people such as nurses to dispense drugs came from the fact that tambon-level hospitals did not have pharmacists and it was usually the nurses who gave out medicines.
He also said that a committee should be set up to review all contentious points.