More pharmacist groups against bill to amend Drugs Act

A network of pharmacist associations in the Northeast is calling on the government to revise a bill drafted by the Food and Drug Administration to allow non-pharmacists to dispense medicines.

Led by the pharmaceutical sciences alumni associations of Khon Kaen University, Mahasarakham University and Ubon Ratchathani University, the network consists of all pharmacist clubs and other health advocacy groups in the Northeast.

Addressing the gathering of the network on Saturday at Khon Kaen University, Worawit Kittiwongsunthon, vice president of Pharmacy Council of Thailand (PCT) said the bill should be revised to ensure it is in line with the standard international system for drug regulation.

If this bill is passed unchanged, it will largely compromise the safety of consumers and more problems will arise such as medicines being sold over the internet, he said.

The drafters of this bill should have studied drug laws in other countries thoroughly before they began drafting it, he said.

Only a few people had worked on the draft, according to Mr Worawit who insisted the pharmacists were protesting against the draft not because they were acting in their own interests, but for the sake of the safety of consumers.

The draft contains several loopholes and it's not any better than the 1967 Drug Act, he said.

Earlier this week, a network of pharmacists in the South came out to oppose the draft, which is designed to replace the 1967 Drug Act.

At the centre of the controversy is a clause in the bill drafted by the FDA to allow health professionals other than pharmacists to dispense medicines.

Critics are concerned this could open the way for convenience stores across the country to sell medicine without deploying pharmacists, which can undermine efforts in promoting safe drug use.

Deputy Prime Minister Gen Chatchai Sarikulya previously defended the bill, saying it would not lead to exploitation by business operators.

Wanchai Sattayawutthiphong, secretary-general of the FDA, argued that the draft law still requires drug stores to employ pharmacists, eliminating any concerns about unsafe drug use.

Public Health Minister Piyasakol Sakolsatayadorn insisted the bill has yet to be considered by the cabinet and scrutinised by the National Legislative Assembly.

Source: Thai Public Broadcasting Service (ThaiPBS)