KUALA LUMPUR,. For the past 20 years, 62-year-old Leela has been buying prescribed medication such as painkillers, antibiotics and flu pills from various pharmacies in the Klang Valley without a doctor’s prescription.
Leela said her children have dubbed her their “family doctor” because she can tell them which medicine is needed for “almost any kind of symptoms.”
“When my children were much younger, I would visit a doctor or a general practitioner but after some time, I learnt about the different types of medicines and realised that it was much cheaper and more convenient to get them at a pharmacy,” she told Malay Mail.
Some of these medicines include those that come under the Group B Poison category and the Poisons Act 1952; such medicines can only be prescribed by a registered medical practitioner and registered dentist.
Pharmacists do not fall under this category.
They are only limited to prescribing and dispensing Group B medicines which are used specifically to treat minor ailments such as skin allergies, colds, minor flu and some body aches.
A pharmacist can only dispense Group B pills with a prescription from a doctor. And in these cases, the pharmacist must write down the amount, brand and dosage of drugs sold to a person in the prescription book.
The prescription book is generally to safeguard the interests of the pharmacist and for record purposes should there be any untoward incidents resulting from the consumer’s consumption of said medicine.
In reality though, most people can walk into a pharmacy to buy these Group B medicines without a prescription. At most, they may be required to write down their particulars in the prescription book.
You can lie about your name and address as nobody really checks what is written in the book, nor do they ask to see your identity card (IC).
“I have never brought a prescription chit to a pharmacist. I would usually just walk in and ask for the medicines I want, and they would just sell them to me without asking any questions,” Leela said.
Some of the medicines Leela has purchased include Celebrex and some strong flu pills.
A check by Malay Mail revealed that Leela is not the only person who self-prescribes medicines for herself and her family.
In a straw poll, about 10 respondents confessed that they too have purchased strong Group B medicines without a prescription.
Some of these include Viagra and Xanax.
Twenty-four-year-old Gary, who aspires to become a bodybuilder, said he bought Viagra to help him perform better when lifting weights in the gym.
“I just walk into a pharmacy and tell them a sad story about why I need it it usually softens them up enough to be willing to sell it to me,” he said.
Gary said he knew it was wrong to do so, but still did it because it was difficult to get such “performance enhancing drugs” without a prescription.
Like Leela and Gary, Karen is another person who is no stranger to her local pharmacy in Setapak where she purchases prescribed anxiety medicines for her husband.
“As soon as I walk in (the pharmacy) people know me… the pharmacist will even ask me if it’s Xanax I’ve come for,” she said, referring to the brand of medicine used to treat anxiety and panic disorders.
Malay Mail also visited several pharmacies in Bangsar, Petaling Jaya and Klang seeking Group B medicines such as Xanax, Arcoxia and Covapril.
Quite a few pharmacists did not bother asking for a prescription chit.
Some just took the tablets from the locked shelves and sold them without recording our details in the prescription book.
Under the Poisons Act, a person found guilty of wilfully failing to keep any book or making false entries in the prescription book can be fined up to RM5,000 or jailed not exceeding two years, or both.
When asked if the consumer would be in trouble for buying these medicines without a prescription, one pharmacist said, “Everyone is doing this it’s okay as long as you consume these medicines as we have prescribed.”