[Quiz] I am confused!? Which meds can I buy without a prescription?

Have you ever been to the pharmacy requesting for a certain medicine, only to be asked by the pharmacist to come back with a prescription? Yet at the same time, the pharmacist can sell you other medicines without a prescription?

This happens because different medicines may fall into different categories, and therefore are subject to different laws and regulations.

In general, the sale of all medicines in Malaysia is regulated by the Poisons Act 1952. While the law itself is long and complicated, more often than not the medicines consumers will encounter or purchase either belong to Group B or Group C.

Group B medicines (also known as Prescription Only Medicines in other countries) are medicines that can only be dispensed according to a prescription written by a doctor. These include antibiotics, medicines you use for high blood pressure, and more serious conditions that require a doctor’s evaluation and formal diagnosis before it can be given.

On the other hand, Group C medicines (also known as Pharmacy Medicines in other countries) are medicines that can be sold by pharmacists for the treatment of minor conditions, even without a prescription. These include your mild painkillers such as mefenamic acid (Ponstan®), topical creams for rashes, and certain oral contraceptives. Having said that, the law does require such purchases to be recorded in a Prescription Book.

So don’t be surprised if your pharmacist asks you for a prescription or to write down your details the next time you purchase your medicines.

Jason Loo
Jason Loo

PhD, MPharm, RPh

As a computational chemist lecturing at the School of Pharmacy at Taylor's University Lakeside Campus.

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