Budget debate: Central national pharmacy being set up to deliver medications to patients' homes

Retiree Lee Meow Khin with his medicine delivered to his home.
Retiree Lee Meow Khin with his medicine delivered to his home.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

SINGAPORE - Getting his medicine delivered to his home has been a tremendous help for retiree Lee Meow Khin, 72.

After he fell ill last year and was prescribed several months' worth of medications, getting it delivered saved him the trouble of carrying multiple bottles home on public transport.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) is setting up a national pharmacy to consolidate medication delivery across public healthcare institutions from 2022.

This came about after the Covid-19 pandemic hastened the acceptance of telemedicine as well as medicine deliveries, paving the way for a wider roll-out of these services.

Dr Koh Poh Koon, Senior Minister of State for Health, said during the debate on MOH's budget on Friday (March 5) that the National Central Fill Pharmacy (NCFP) will consolidate medications across multiple providers in a central location, which will then be sent to patients' homes, secured postboxes or a location that is convenient to them.

This will improve access to pharmacy services, including for seniors with mobility needs, and support new care models such as telemedicine, he said.

Patients, like Mr Lee, who are under the care of more than one doctor from different public healthcare institutions and have multiple prescriptions, will be able to get their medication orders delivered as a single parcel.

In March last year, Mr Lee had to have a gastrectomy to remove his stomach at the Singapore General Hospital due to stomach cancer, and he later had constipation and acid reflux.

He was prescribed many bottles of medications, which would have been too heavy for him to carry home.

For those who receive such gastrectomies, the oesophagus, which connects the throat to the stomach, is instead connected to the small intestine so that the patients are still able to eat.

In November 2020, Mr Lee was also diagnosed with lymphoma at the National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCCS) and was prescribed even more medication, along with his chemotherapy treatment.

"The centre was able to deliver the medication, so I didn't have to make a special trip down just to collect it, which helps to save time," said Mr Lee, who travels to NCCS at least five to six times each month for treatment and check-ups.

He added that the delivery service is beneficial to patients like him, who may be frail or tired after a chemotherapy session. Not having to queue and carry the medication home eases the process.

The new medicine delivery model will be rolled out in phases. The first phase, which will be ready in early 2022, will benefit all polyclinic patients taking chronic disease medications. Patients from the public hospitals will be put on this new plan in phases after that.