A medical foundation yesterday encouraged patients to take their prescription slips to a separate pharmacist, rather than filling their prescriptions at the clinics where they obtained them.
"Pharmacists are trained professionals who perform a necessary gatekeeper role," said Taiwan Health Reform Foundation chairman Chang Ly-yun (
"If necessary," she added, "it is the pharmacist's responsibility to call the doctor and challenge the validity of the prescription."
However, pharmacists are often unable to perform their roles properly, according to the foundation's board member Liu Mei-chun (
In fact, they are often bypassed altogether, she said.
"Taiwanese people don't really understand the importance of the prescription slip. They figure that the doctor knows best, and few bother to take steps to verify the prescription with a pharmacist. But mistakes are often made," she said.
According to a report by the Department of Health, more than 25 percent of drugs prescribed by doctors may be incorrect or harmful. Both doctors and pharmacists come under fire in the report for this alarming figure.
"Pharmacists need to be given clear, complete information so that they can exercise their professional judgement. But prescription slips are often confusing, sparse in detail about the patient's symptoms or indecipherable scrawl," Chang said. "Some doctors even use their own proprietary codes for medicines, making their prescription slips useless outside of their clinic."
Chang cited force of habit, professional chauvinism and the profits from in-clinic drug sales as possible reasons why some doctors make it hard for patients to fill a prescription at a different pharmacy.
Some pharmacists, on the other hand, are less than trustworthy, Chang said.
"There are instances of opportunistic pharmacists who are more interested in promoting products than providing what's on the prescription," Chang said.