By The Nation
THAILAND WILL stick with the drug law that was passed half a century ago and disallows nurses from dispensing drugs, if relevant organisations continue fighting over the new Drug Bill.
“If we can’t present the draft to the Cabinet, we won’t be able to push for greater consumer protection and better control of online medicine ads. We will have to stick with the 1967 Drug Act,” Public Health Ministry’s permanent secretary Dr Opas Karnkawinpong said yesterday.
He was speaking after attending a meeting with several nurse groups, including the Thailand Nursing and Midwifery Council.
The two issues that spark the biggest controversy stipulate which professions can dispense drugs and how drugs are categorised.
Representatives of nurses and health workers based in Thailand’s deep South insisted that the Drug Bill should allow nurses to dispense drugs because at small hospitals, nurses may have to respond to patients’ needs in the absence of doctors and pharmacists.
However, last week, the Food and Drug Administration talked with pharmacists’ groups and |ruled out nurses, stating that only pharmacists, dentists, doctors and veterinarians could dispense drugs.
Pharmacists have insisted that anyone dispensing drugs must be carefully controlled to uphold the checks-and-balances in the healthcare sector.
Opas said he would encourage relevant organisations to get together this week to resolve these issues.
“We hope they will settle their differences. If they still fight over some clauses in the bill, we won’t be able to forward it to the Cabinet to start the legislation of the new drug law,” he said.
Thailand Nursing and Midwifery Council’s president Assoc Professor Tassana Boontong said the new Drug Bill would deliver many benefits if it is passed.
“We have already drawn up manuals on how nurses should provide primary medical care and dispense basic medicines for patients. This manual has won approval from the Medical Council, the Dental Council and the Pharmacy Council of Thailand,” Tassana said. “So, the new law should reflect the current situation.”
Nurse groups expect the new bill to list four drug categories so nurses can handle basic drugs. But pharmacists hope that the bill will list just three categories of drugs: prescription drugs, medicines that pharmacists can dispense right away and general medicine for home use.
Opas said he understood the nurses’ position because in some areas, such as the deep South, nurses were in charge of dispensing drugs.
“So, nurses hope they will get clear legal protection,” he said.