Better if pharmacists dispense medicines instead of doctors

It is a relief that the Singapore Medical Council (SMC) is calling for doctors to rein in over-servicing and to bring down healthcare costs (Doctors warned against overcharging, overtreating; March 20).

I believe that most doctors want to do their best to serve the community. However, scandals, such as a psychiatrist prescribing medication to a patient despite knowing that he was at risk of abusing it, are alarming (Doc fined, suspended over lax prescription; Feb 22).

Is it time we shift the responsibility of dispensing medicines to pharmacists, so as to lower drug costs and improve medication safety, as other developed countries like South Korea have done?

Even though the SMC has issued guidelines on drug pricing for doctors to adhere to, healthcare costs in the free market system are ballooning. It is important to note that these costs are not solely due to doctors' fees and medicines, but also due to external factors like the pharmaceutical industry and laboratory diagnostics.

We should continue to put our trust in physicians, but erect safeguards and measures to ensure that patients are not exploited when they pay for medicines dispensed at clinics.

Jeremy Chan Lin En

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 22, 2018, with the headline 'Better if pharmacists dispense medicines instead of doctors'. Print Edition | Subscribe