Pharmaceutical News
Drug policy - TFDA halts the promotion of self-medication

Reported by Liao Pei-Yu from Taipei

In January, the TFDA announced its policy of promoting “self-medication” and proposed reclassifying 13 common prescription drugs into instruction drugs so that patients can buy those drugs from pharmacies.  However, this policy aroused opposition from doctors.  They worried that self-medication may delay diagnosis and proper treatments.  Also, it is against medical laws for pharmacists to perform medical practices.  The TFDA gave in under the pressure and decided to halt the policy.  The TFDA expressed that they will continue to communicate with the stakeholders and to form a consensus. 

The 13 drugs on the TFDA’s list of reclassification include oral antihistamine, stomachic medicines, steroid ointment and spray, antibiotics for external use, vaginal preparations, anti-allergy eye drops and aspirins.  According to the TFDA’s original plan, those drugs will be available as instruction drugs by the second half of the year.  The TFDA will also promote the concept of self-medication at the same time.  However, doctors had different opinions in the communication meetings.  Liu Li-Ling, the Section Chief of the Medicinal Products Division of the TFDA, expressed that the policy will be suspended for the time being until a consensus is formed. 


Tsai Min-Chung, Secretary General of the Taiwan Medical Association, expressed that self-medication involves medical practices and have an impact on patients’ health; therefore, the policy should be promoted in a grander scale.  Tsai suggested that the MOHW should take a leading role and get all relevant agencies involved, such as the TFDA, the HPA and the DOMA.   He also pointed out that good corresponding measures and patients’ knowledge about medicines are the two preconditions for the policy of “self-medication”.
Tsai Min-Chung also mentioned that “to be used under pharmacists’ instruction” is a very vague term.   If pharmacists make suggestions on drugs for patients’ conditions, then it is a kind of medical practice, hence violating the medical law. 

Gu Bo-Jen, President of the New Taipei City Pharmacist Association, expressed that pharmacists provide consulting services and advices on medicines, side effects and precautions/warnings.   Such act should not be deemed as diagnosis or medical practices, said Gu.   The 13 drugs on the TFDA’s list can be bought in supermarkets in many countries.  They are quite safe.  It is true that the public need to be educated; but it is wrong to think they lack the ability.  

Gu Po-Jen pointed out that the policy of promoting “self-medication” aims to reduce the waste of NHI resources.  The society should be more positive about this policy. 

Liu Li-Ling stressed that pharmacists provide consulting services, rather than diagnosis.  It is up to the drug companies to decide whether to apply for drug reclassification or not.  The TFDA will continue to communicate with the stakeholders and to form a consensus on this issue. 

【2015-02-13/ China Times】