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Thailand’s Deputy Prime Defends Proposed Drug Dispensing Law

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BANGKOK – Thailand’s Deputy Prime Minister Gen Chatchai Sarikulya on Thursday defended a new bill opening up drug dispensing and urged the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to raise awareness of the controversial proposal.

At the centre of the controversy is a clause in the bill drafted by the FDA which seeks 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.

At a FDA press conference held Thursday, Gen Chatchai said if the FDA put more effort in raising understanding of the draft — which is designed to replace the 1967 Drug Act — the issue would be cleared up.

He stood firm on the issue, saying it would not lead to exploitation by business operators.

“I’ve stressed with the FDA’s secretary-general about the need to raise awareness and provide accurate information. [The FDA] should speed up its efforts,” the Bangkok Post Reported.

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

He said the clause is intended to address the concerns of health professionals about hospitals at the tambon level that allow nurses to dispense prescription medications. “Some people try to interpret it in a way that drug stores can hire other health professionals to dispense drugs. That’s completely off-base,” said Mr Wanchai.

Public Health Minister Piyasakol Sakolsatayadorn said the FDA is making a list of good points in the bill to show why the amendments are beneficial to public health.

Mr Piyasakol said further ministerial regulations will have to be issued to regulate the dispensing of medicines, and urged all health professionals not to be divided by the issue.

He added the bill has yet to be considered by the cabinet and scrutinized by the National Legislative Assembly.