Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

‘Purchasing’ a more affordable healthcare system

Monday, July 2nd, 2018
(File pix) Healthcare organisations throw away millions of ringgit in medicines and other consumables every year as they pass their expiry date. This wastage can be significantly reduced, with fewer different articles kept in storage against lower inventory levels.

THE government has been urged to regulate the cost of private healthcare as part of efforts to lessen the cost of living in Malaysia. The authorities will target healthcare spending of 6.0 per cent to 7.0 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP), an increase from the current 4.4 per cent.

Recently it was reported that medical supplies in Malaysia is a multi-billion ringgit business.

What needs to be done to create a more affordable healthcare system in Malaysia? Professionalisation of the purchasing function of healthcare organisations is a good starting point.

Managing a world-class healthcare organisation does not only require medical but also business expertise. Within the healthcare organisation the purchasing function is increasingly important.

In fact, a significant part of healthcare costs can be directly linked to the effectiveness of the purchasing function.

There is a difference between buying and purchasing. Purchasing is the professional buying by an organisation. Purchasing is structured, based on facts, and shaped by corporate or public policy. Buying in the private domain has space for irrational considerations, whereas in the corporate or public domain this space is not present.

I have learnt that purchasing involves everything you receive an external invoice for. Therefore, the finance department is the starting point in the optimisation of purchasing. Modern purchasing is data oriented, involved in obtaining intelligence on the purchasing market as well as recurring analysis of own spending.

Purchasing is hereby more a science than an art.

Professionalisation of the purchasing function is essential for a more efficient organisation of hospitals, specialist centres, elderly homes, disability care, general practitioners, dentists, etc.

However, what I often discover with healthcare organisation in Malaysia is that there is a lot of untapped potential in saving purchasing costs and improving the purchasing organisation.

Purchasing in healthcare organisation are generally not well structured, category management and inventory management practices are not effective enough, synergy advantages not exploited, and supplier management lacks efficiency.

Although many healthcare staff are involved in purchasing, purchasing in healthcare organisations is often not well structured in terms of purchasing policy, purchasing process, purchasing methods and procedures, purchasing organisation, information systems and performance measurement.

Category management should be a critical focus area for healthcare organisations, which looks at standardisation of the goods purchased.

A rationalisation of a category in direct consultation with the respective healthcare specialists reduces the number of suppliers, inventory levels, and purchasing costs.

Today, healthcare organisations throw away millions of ringgit in medicines and other consumables every year as they pass their expiry date. This wastage can be significantly reduced, with fewer different articles kept in storage against lower inventory levels.

There is a lack of horizontal and vertical collaboration in purchasing with other healthcare organisations.

Horizontal collaboration, collaboration with similar organisations, can be achieved through a joint purchasing organisation, collaboration on project basis (e.g. in case ofanational epidemic or disaster), or selective collaborative purchasing in certain disciplines (e.g. certain expensive equipment and medicines). Synergies are achieved in terms of reduction of purchasing costs, but also better purchasing conditions, or consolidating pressure on suppliers to comply with important needs such as halal.

In case collaboration with competitors is too sensitive, a separate national healthcare purchasing organisation could play this role. Vertical collaboration, collaboration within your own healthcare chain, like collaboration between hospitals and nursing homes, allows for faster patient flow between hospital and nursing homes with fewer bed stays in hospitals.

Hospital stays are less cost effective than nursing home stays. These patients can easily add up to 10 per cent of the beds in hospitals. Collaboration can therefore reduce healthcare costs in a big way.

In short, purchasing in healthcare needs further professionalisation!

Massive cost reductions are possible without affecting the quality of healthcare in government and private healthcare organisations. Annual reporting and benchmarking on purchasing performance of government hospitals as well as private hospitals could be an effective instrument to enhance awareness of the importance of the purchasing performance of healthcare organisations.

By Dr Marco Tieman.

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We must keep our schools’ washrooms clean and safe

Monday, June 25th, 2018
(File pix) The Education Ministry must not only overcome the problem of heavy bags, but must also look into the problem of dirty washrooms in schools. Pix by Ghazali Kori

“ATUK, ada doa tahan kencing tak?”, (“Grandpa, is there a prayer to hold my urine?”).

This was asked by my 7-year-old grandchild when I picked him up from school.

While it is great to know that the Education Ministry is trying to overcome the problem of heavy bags, it must also look into the problem of dirty washrooms in schools. This is a common problem. Parents, not just the schools, have a role to play.

Schoolchildren are holding back their urine and their bowel movements due to unhygienic washrooms.

Children stop drinking or eating during school hours to avoid using the washroom.

It is an unhealthy practice which leads to dehydration and constipation. This agonising situation will have a damaging effect, especially on afternoon-session pupils.

In terms of concentration and the ability to understand the lessons being taught, it is important to ensure maximum absorption without being hindered by these symptoms.

Parents have to educate their children on how to use washrooms properly. Good hygiene practices begin at home. Parents must set a good example.

However, I have witnessed many parents setting a bad example in front of their children.

Some eat without first washing their hands, some pick their noses in public and later touch the food, sneeze and cough without covering their mouth with a handkerchief.

Some mothers would just place the milk bottle back into the baby’s mouth after it had fallen down and made a few rolls.

Are we unhygienic in nature?

If yes, then transformation is the need of the hour. Parents must be particular about being clean and they must enforce discipline over their children on personal cleanliness and hygiene. This will prevent infections and diseases.

At school, the responsibility to provide a clean washroom with the basic essentials belongs to the school management. How can the management not notice how dirty the washrooms are when one can smell the foul stench when he walks by?

The management must ensure proper cleaning is done at least twice a day.

Another problem that some schools face is vandalism. To overcome this, the disciplinary system in schools should be therapeutic in nature.


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Hand, foot and mouth disease cases on the rise

Sunday, June 10th, 2018

LABUAN: Hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) cases have soared in the duty-free-island here, with 240 cases recorded in the first five and a half months of this year, compared to 270 cases throughout last year.

The new cases were in Tadika Ayu Gemilang with four cases reported on May 23. One kindergarten was ordered to be closed last month.

The cases started rising in early March (on the ninth week of 2018), with 17 cases recorded before shooting up to 21 in April (15th week) and down to 11 cases this week.

“We have witnessed an increase in the trend in this communicable disease, and we believe the outbreak started from the beginning of the recent long public holiday,” Labuan Health director Dr Ismuni Bohari told Bernama on Friday.

Before this, Sabah Health director Datuk Dr Christina Rundi on June 6 had said up to 940 cases of HFMD had been recorded in the state as of the middle of last month – an increase of 27 per cent as compared to the same period last year.


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Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad a respected leader.

Saturday, May 19th, 2018

SHAH ALAM: Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad (pic), who was named the Health Minister on Friday (May 18) in the new Cabinet of Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, is a respected leader in the Kuala Selangor parliamentary constituency where he is the MP.

The 62-year-old Parti Amanah Negara strategic director holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Birmingham and a Master of Science degree from the University of Surrey, United Kingdom.

He received his doctorate in Medical Science (Toxicology) from the Imperial College (St Mary’s Hospital Medical School) in 1993.

Born in Rembau, Negri Sembilan, Dr Dzulkefly served as a lecturer at the Faculty of Medical Sciences, Universiti Sains Malaysia, in Penang and the Universiti Sains Malaysia Hospital (HUSM), Kelantan, in the 1980s and 1990s.

Dr Dzulkefly is married to Azlin Hezri and they have seven children.

He had been a vocal political analyst and was arrested during a protest against the increase of oil prices in 2008.

Dr Dzulkefly had been invited often to present working papers, both at the national and international levels, particularly in topics related to economic development and race relations.

In 2008, he published a collection of political analyses in a book entitled ‘Blind Spot’, and has been a columnist for the Harakah newspaper of PAS and the Edge Financial Daily.

He was also active as a leader of the student movement in the United Kingdom in the 1970s and 1980s and was also a social activist in non-governmental organisations.

In politics, Dr Dzulkefly contested for the first time on a PAS ticket in the Kuala Selangor parliamentary seat in the 12th General Election in 2008, and won with a slim majority of 862 votes.

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‘Harvesting’ from the poor

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2018
A man points to his scars after his kidney was removed in an operation. The International Organisation for Migration has expressed alarm over the rise in the trade of human organs. REUTERS PIC

ORGAN transplantation is one of the most incredible medical achievements of the past century. Since the first successful transplants, which took place in the 1950s, organ transplantation has saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of people worldwide.

Globally, about 125,000 people undergo organ transplantation each year. This number is small in the face of demand for organs widely outstripping supply, consequently creating an underground market for organs that are illicitly obtained from the poor.

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), “human organs for transplants have two sources, deceased donors and living donors; ultimately, human organs can only be derived from a human body, and thus, any action in the field of organ transplantation must be carried out in accordance with the highest ethical and professional standards”.

The reality is that in several countries such as India, Pakistan, Egypt or Mexico, organ trafficking has been peaking in recent years. Organ transplantation is a medical procedure in which an organ is removed from one body and placed in the body of a recipient, replacing a damaged or missing organ. Organs that have been successfully transplanted include the heart, kidneys, liver, lungs, pancreas, intestine, and thymus. Worldwide, kidneys are the most commonly transplanted organs, followed by the liver and then the heart.

Organ trafficking, also defined as “illegal organ trade”, “transplant tourism” or “organ purchase” describes the phenomenon of trafficking in persons for the purpose of organ removal, a grim reality even in the 21st century.

Transplant surgeon and adviser to the World Health Organisation, Dr Francis Delmonico, in an interview on organ donation and transplantation, said there is a grim reality around the medical practice.

“People who are rich are able to buy organs and it’s the poor who end up being the source of these organs. You can go to a country such as India and get an organ there (illegally) or you could get the donor coming to India from Africa and do the transplantation there. It happens every day. The extreme aspect of this picture is that this process becomes even more abusive.

An example of abuse of this kind is a story reported by world media in February about a man in India who sold his wife’s kidneys without her knowing about it. The man was eventually arrested, but the woman has been suffering a lot, since her left kidney was infected. Malevolence permeates the practice of organ transplantation in a despicable way.

Delmonico adds that there is yet another aspect about this social injustice. According to him, many rich people come to the United States and simply “skip the line”. They come to the US and supplant somebody who had been on the waiting list for a long time to get a “deceased organ”.

A few years ago, China was under the radar of the transplantation community for suspected unethical and illegal behaviour in this field. For decades, donor organs were taken from executed convicts — a controversial practice which was greatly restricted by the government and eventually banned in 2015.

Delmonico is highly critical of Iran that has a legal market for organs and it is the only country in the world to do so. He warns that even when authorised by governments, the sale of organs often means exploitation of the poorest. “It’s the same problem. In Iran the government encourages money as the basis for donors, but then there is often a negotiation that takes place between a donor and a recipient in which the former stresses the need for more money and the latter is able to meet that need.” Iran is now trying to change this practice and to do more on “deceased donation”.

When it comes to religion, the debate on organ donation sometimes turns out to be controversial, as many religious leaders tend to criticise this medical practice saying it is forbidden by their faith. This happens in all the main religions. At the same time, many religious leaders across the world tend to be in favour of organ donation.

Human trafficking is the second largest criminal industry in the world, second only to illegal drug trade. According to End itAlabama (a human trafficking task force), it is a very lucrative business estimated to be a US$32 billion (RM127 billion) industry annually and it would be only a matter time until it surpasses the drug trade.

According to Delmonico, what is needed is transparency through which every donor and every recipient is identified and that this information is accessible to the evaluation of a ministry of health. The oversight by the ministry can guarantee the protection of the living donor — that he is not exploited — and that the transplantation is done at medical centres with a satisfactory outcome.

Some other transplant surgeons such as Ignazio Marino, a former Mayor of Rome, Italy, had suggested few years ago that, “the only way to tackle organ trafficking and organ sale, is by cutting down the demand of organs themselves”. The key, he said, would be to “propose hard legal punishments for those people who buy organs. If they would know that buying an organ would save their lives but also bring them to jail for 15 years, maybe those people would think about it twice”.



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Sabah has most mental health patients

Thursday, March 8th, 2018

KOTA KINABALU: Mental health issues in Sabah are the most prevalent compared to other states nationwide, making up 42.9 per cent of national figures.

Sabah Health Department Director Datuk Dr Christina Rundi said a survey conducted by the Ministry of Health in 2015 found Sabah to have the highest number of mental health illnesses.

“We hope the ministry will continue to send psychiatrists to Sabah in order to cater to the high demand for their services here due to the state’s widespread geographical landscape,” she said at the book launch of ‘Standard Operating Procedures for Assistant Medical Officers in Psychiatry’ here yesterday.

Her speech was delivered by Sabah Health Department (medical) senior chief assistant director Dr Abd Kahar Abd Asis.

According to Sabah psychiatry services statistics, 30,675 outpatient cases were recorded in 2016, alongside 1,373 inpatient cases.

This showed an increase from previous years, said Christina, in line with the progress of psychiatry services in Sabah.

Meanwhile, Health Ministry (medical) deputy director-general Datuk Dr Jeyaindran Sinnadurai said the publication of the book of standard operating procedures for assistant medical officers in psychiatry will provide a guideline to meet the standards of care and professionalism for patients.

Jeyaindran further said the book was a good tool to raise awareness on the importance of meeting set standards for all assistant medical officers who provide special care to psychiatry patients.

by Fiqah Roslan.

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Dishing up healthier options

Sunday, February 11th, 2018

It is vital for parents to understand lifestyle factors that determine the healthy growth of their children.

ARE parents aware of what their children are consuming, how they eat and in what environment they are eating in? In our cover story on “Ensuring children chomp on healthy treats” last month, we focused on the enforcement of the Healthy School Canteen Management Guide to limit the access and availability of unhealthy food and drinks to school children.

In this issue, we feature experts who give their take on the role parents play in ensuring their children’s diet contain a healthy amount of nutrients and the different benefits of consuming wholesome food.

We often hear from our neighbours or relatives how they get caught up with work commitments, subsequently handing down their parental duties to caretakers or the child’s grandparents

Many rely on food provided by the child’s school canteen, despite knowing the various unhealthy treats that are served on the premises.

The Education and Health Ministries have taken considerable measures to ensure healthier options are served in schools.

Health Ministry director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah told StarEducate recently that efforts to “healthify” school canteens began in 2016, in collaboration with the Education Ministry under the purview of the National Plan of Action for Nutrition of Malaysia 2016-2025.

The new guide, known as the revised “Healthy School Canteen Management Guide”, will be enforced this year to limit the accessibility and availability of unhealthy food and drinks to school children.

Meanwhile, school canteen operators are given a strict list of banned food that cannot be sold in government school canteens. While schools play a significant role in ensuring healthier options are dished out to students, parents play a role no less important.

It is vital for parents to understand other lifestyle factors that determine the healthy growth of their children, says Assoc Prof Dr Hazreen Abdul Majid. A child is too young to understand how to choose a healthy selection of food by themselves and parents always know best.

“It important to educate them at an early age on nutritious food. When they start young, it is easier for them to adapt to the environment and adopt a healthy lifestyle as they progress in life.

“The more you expose them to healthy options, the more it becomes a habit,” adds the Universiti Malaya Faculty of Medicine, Centre for Population Health and Department of Social and Preventive Medicine associate professor of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Echoing Dr Hazreen, Assoc Prof Dr Muhammad Yazid Jalaludin says the responsibility to ensure a child’s diet contains good nutrition is not in the hands of healthcare professionals alone.

“I have come across parents who heavily involve their children in sports, training for five to six hours a day. Due to such hectic training schedules, many of them lack time to eat.

“Hence, their calorie intake is disproportionate to their loss of energy, causing them stunted growth and a lack of focus during their lessons,” adds the Universiti Malaya Medical Centre Department of Paediatrics head and Consultant Paediatrician, Consultant Paediatric Endocrinologist.

Food that are high in glycemic index such as cereals and white bread digest faster, causing one to feel hungry more quickly. When this happens, Dr Hazreen says, a child will not have sustainable blood sugar in their system and thus, end up lacking attention during their lessons, disrupting their concentration and studies. “Therefore, the type of food and carbs they take play an important role,” he adds.

Dr Hazreen encourages the consumption of food high in fibre such as wholemeal and whole grain bread.

It delays gastric emptying, is wholesome, provides energy and is low in glycemic index. It also leads to a healthy bowel, a common problem among young children, he says.

“The vitamin and oil content in wholemeal and whole grain bread is higher compared to white bread. In addition to this, to add colour and creativity to their food, some parents even add fruits to make it interesting for their children. The role of food today has expanded more holistically,” he adds.

Dr Hazreen shares that eating meat on a daily basis is not advised. Instead, he encourages parents to alternate meat with fish sources such as tuna, sardines or deep-sea fish as it contains essential oil such as docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

“Don’t skip meals! Data gathered from various studies show that a number of children do not have their breakfast. When a child does not have fuel in their system, how will they be able to survive their day, especially when they have physical education in school? This will of course affect their studies. Parents play a crucial role here; they must be alert and monitor their children’s eating timings,” he adds.

Sharing similar sentiments as Dr Hazreen, Dr Muhammad Yazid says it is vital for children to never skip their meals, especially breakfast. It sends your body into a state of “yo-yo” as sugar levels fluctuate, he stresses. Having timely meals allow children to grow well, subsequently helping them to better understand and absorb lessons taught in school, he adds.

“When we eat, we provide energy to our brain in the form of glucose; the main fuel for our body. A child sleeps for some eight hours, on average. This means, they have been fasting and their stomach is empty for that duration of time.

“When they don’t have breakfast, they end up breaking their sugar resources from other parts of their body and this is not good, compared to simply having a meal. Therefore, a good amount of calorie intake is necessary as it provides energy; nutrition plays a significant role in the development of a child,” he says.

The Nutrition Society of Malaysia (NSM) conducted a survey in 2014 on 8,705 school children across the country to study their breakfast habits. See Table 1 for key findings from the study.

In a World Health Organisation report published last year, it stated that 41 million children under the age of five were overweight or obese in 2016.

For Dr Hazreen, this figure comes as no surprise as energy is not just derived from the food we devour, but from the type of beverages we consume. Instead of making fruit juices, for example, he suggests that parents feed the fruit to their children. One regular sized mug contains at least six teaspoon of sugar, he stresses.

“Unknowingly, parents feed their children excessive amounts of sugar, and this is just fruit juice. Can you imagine if their children consume carbonated beverages coupled with fast food?”

In our previous report, Dr Noor Hisham says food and beverages that are not allowed to be sold in school canteens are food and drinks that are high in sugar, fat and salt (sodium).

Carbonated drinks, sweets and chocolate, ice confections and ice cream and processed food such as burgers, nuggets, sausages, are examples of foods that are listed under this category, he explains.

In 2016, Dr Hazreen conducted a study on adolescent children and found that many teenagers consume too much sugar in their drinks and lack calcium and fibre in their diet.

“The reason behind this is multifactorial. There are cases where when a child is young and refuses to eat vegetables, parents give up reintroducing these foods to their children. Research suggests that when a type of food is reintroduced at least 15 times, the chances of the child consuming it is greater. Veggies are good not just to keep one’s cognitive functions sharp, but it is also beneficial for the bowel,” he adds.

Antioxidants in vegetables and fruits are also vital to ensure the smooth flow of blood to brain. Brighter fruits are better for one’s health as it contains more vitamins, he explains.

In an era where the fear of missing out on latest trends is astonishing and the inclination to believe messages forwarded over instant messaging apps are high, Dr Hazreen warns parents to do their research before succumbing to any sort of food craze.

“People enjoy following trends without understanding the rationale behind it. Be careful of what you are adopting, know if your child has any underlying diseases and always go back to basics such as looking into your child’s diet,” he adds.

Adequate sleep and meal prep

Dr Muhammad Yazid advocates the consumption of supper in small portions before a child goes to bed.

These include a glass of milk and one exchange of carbohydrate. It can be three pieces of biscuits or a slice of bread, provided they have a good dinner, he adds.

While a healthy diet for growing children is vital, he emphasises that sleep is of equal importance.

“Parents need to understand that a child requires a good amount of sleep per day, and they must sleep within a certain time to ensure their optimal growth. A child grows mainly during their sleep due to the hormones that are secreted during those hours.” He opposes the idea of children sleeping past midnight.

“Even if they get eight hours of sleep, it does not mean they will get the optimal hours as required, in comparison to a child who sleeps by 9pm.” Likewise, Dr Hazreen says inadequate rest coupled with unhealthy eating habits could cause a domino effect on a child and their academic performance.

He believes having a balanced meal is important, suggesting that parents follow the Health Ministry’s Nutrition Division Malaysian Healthy Plate recommendation of filling our plates in fractions or as they say, “Suku-Suku-Separuh”; a quarter is carbohydrates, another quarter protein (fish, poultry, meat and legumes) and the remaining half is vegetables and fruits.

Thanks to video-sharing websites such as YouTube and food networks such as Buzzfeed’s Tasty, busy parents are a click away from preparing simple meals for their children on days they find themselves racing against time.

“Parents can prepare something as simple as sandwiches, fruits and low-sugar cereals for breakfast.

Breakfast doesn’t necessarily need to be heavy, some parents even prepare oats with raisins for their children. For lunch, the children can have something light such as mee soup rather than nasi lemak as the latter has high contents of fat. Our stomach requires time to digest food with high fat content and when this happens, we often tend to feel sleepy,” Dr Hazreen says.
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One in four Malaysians develops cancer by 75

Sunday, January 28th, 2018

KENINGAU: A year-long cancer awareness community-based campaign has shown positive results, said Executive Director of KPJ for Sabah and Sarawak Hospitals, Mah Lai Heng.

She said the campaign had improved public awareness of cancer such as risk factors and symptoms, inspired a positive attitude towards both prevention as well as early diagnosis and encouraged healthy lifestyle behaviours.

“After successfully launching our ‘We Can, I Can,’ Cancer Awareness Campaign in Kota Kinabalu in March last year and 10 months of roadshows to major districts in Sabah, KPJ Sabah Specialist Hospital brought their last and final roadshow to Keningau,” she said in her speech when launching KPJ Sabah Specialist Hospital’s ‘We Can, I Can,’ Cancer Awareness Roadshow at a hotel here yesterday.

She said this marks a great start for the cancer awareness and education campaign in Keningau.

According to her, cancer is a leading cause of death and disability worldwide today, impacting more than 14 million people each year.

Mah said it is a destructive disease that often involved tough therapies and unpleasant side effects such as weight loss, fatigue and hair loss.

“Statistics from the Malaysia Health Ministry have shown that about 100,000 Malaysians suffer from cancer at any one time with breast cancer, colorectal cancer, lung cancer, cervical cancer and nasopharyngeal cancer being the most common types.

“It is estimated that one in four Malaysians will develop cancer by the age of 75 years old.

“Fact is cancer is a public challenge, people may not realize or understand exactly how it affects the community, nation and world,” she said.

Mah said it may seem like one person can’t possibly make a difference, but the truth is their efforts can have a huge impact on individual lives and the community at large.

She said World Cancer Day takes place every year on 4 February. It is a global event that aims to unite all to take action and fight against cancer with the main focus on prevention, detection and treatment.

“As the leading Radiotheraphy and Oncology Centre in East Malaysia, we are taking the forefront to support World Cancer Day 2016-2018 with the theme: We Can, I Can, as our continuous quest to raise awareness on cancer at all levels,” Mah concluded.

Other activities held during the event were health talk, cancer suvivor story sharing, booth activities and health screening organized by KPJ Sabah Specialist Hospital.

The forum in Keningau was jointly organized by Lions Clubs (zone 12), Keningau Chinese Chamber of Commerce, Keningau Chinese Women Association, Hakka Association, Senior Citizens Association, Sze Yi Association, Jiangmen Wuyi Association, Hainan Association, Teo Chew Association, Hokkien Association, National Unity and Integration Department and Bingkor Community Development Leader Unit.

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Depression not a sign of weakness

Sunday, January 28th, 2018

OF late, we have been observing high incidences of depression among the young. It is more common than many think.

Some people consider depression as trivial and not a genuine illness. It is a real illness with real symptoms and it will consume you slowly.

We always think that people have absolute control over how they feel.

Depression isn’t a sign of weakness. It is also not a problem that will just go away.

Uncertainty, fear of growing up, stress of studies or college life, competitive environment and things such as these may trigger depression. Plus, abuse in cyberspace contributes a great deal to depression or depressive disorders.


We live in a world of big data, but little focus and clarity. Our relationship with society is weak. We focus more on goals such as wealth, reputation or impression, probably because we want to be viewed positively, but we fail to realise that we are pushing people towards depression.

Depression is predicted to be one of the major health burdens of the coming years. Research reports indicate that more than 34 million people suffer from depression. But this is not the number we should worry about; we should worry about the millions of people who are not seeking medical treatment.

Depression can affect anyone, even a person who appears to live a fairly idyllic life. It doesn’t matter whether you are a celebrity, a student, a teacher or a housewife, depression knows no boundary. Depression should be taken seriously. It should be addressed and discussed in schools, colleges, universities, workplaces or even at home.

Stigma is still a significant barrier. Thus, we have to come to see the error in our way of thinking. It’s time for our society to dispel the old notion that a person just needs to buck up.


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Medicine sold online may hurt

Sunday, January 28th, 2018
(File pix) Malaysian Pharmaceutical Society (MPS) president Amrahi Buang said the mushrooming of “online pharmacist stores” was alarming.

CLOTHING, accessories, home items, gadgets, cosmetics and skincare products are some of the things that you may find on online shopping platforms.

But, as you narrow down your search to health-related items, you will be surprised to see other medical products.

Surprisingly, the medicines available are not restricted to beauty pills. Other controlled medicines that need prescriptions are sold, raising questions about their authenticity and safety.

The prices are lower than market prices, which is one of the factors that has drawn consumers to spend money and compromise their health.

Under Section 13 of the Poisons Act 1952, it is against the law to sell or supply medicine without a licence. A seller can be fined up to RM3,000 or receive one-year imprisonment for the first offence.

The question is: how have online shopping platforms gotten the green light to sell the medicines, which is against the law?

Malaysian Pharmaceutical Society (MPS) president Amrahi Buang said the mushrooming of “online pharmacist stores” was alarming.

“First and foremost, it is against the law to sell or supply medicine without a licence, and secondly, the authenticity of the drug is doubtful, which can lead to serious health effects if it is taken without the supervision of a doctor or pharmacist.

“Some medicines sold online could be fake and unregistered, which perhaps explains why their price is lower than that sold at pharmacies,” he said when contacted by the New Sunday Times.

“Medicines should be sold only by a pharmacist with a valid prescription or dispensed by a medical practitioner for their patients. The consequences will be dire if the people are allowed to buy medicines without consultations with medical practitioners and pharmacists.”

Checks at popular online shopping stores found that Amrahi’s claims are not baseless.

Besides slimming pills, medicines such as Tadalafil, a medication prescribed for erectile dysfunction, Isotretinoin which is used for severe acne and sleeping pills are some of the controlled medicines found on these platforms.

Medicine sold online could very be fake drugs.

“Controlled medicines means that you can’t buy them over the counter, what more through online stores.

“These medicines need to be prescribed by doctors or medical experts after evaluating one’s health.

“Medicines sold online compromise patient safety as the public have no way to gauge whether the products that they have bought are genuine.

“Chances are these medicines have been tampered or tainted with impurities and microorganisms, which pose a serious threat to consumers’ health.

“Among the effects can be dizziness, headache, nausea, stuffy nose, muscle pain and back pain.

“It can also lead to the more dangerous effects, such as heart problems, if it is taken without the doctor or pharmacist’s supervision. In certain cases, it can lead to death.”

He said supervision from the authorities was crucial to curb the sales of these medicines.

“We need to check how these online stores got approval to sell these medicines.

“We need help from the Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism as well as Health ministries to look into this.”

Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Ministry enforcement director Datuk Mohd Roslan Mahayudin said the ministry had yet to receive any reports on the matter.

“We can take action and investigate only if it is related to the performance of the medicine. For example, if the medicine claims to cure diabetes, but fails to do so, consumers can lodge a report. The issue can also be referred to the Consumer Claims Tribunal.”

He said issues on the authenticity of medicines were under the Health Ministry.

“The Health Ministry disallows people from making claims about medicines unless they can be proven. The registration status and authenticity of medicines only be determined only by the ministry.”

By Nur Aqidah Azizi

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