Over-the-counter alternative medicine not advisable

National 3 minutes, 57 seconds


THE Ministry of Health (MoH) does not encourage the consumption of alternative medicine sold at supermarkets and online platforms that are not proven (to have positive effects) as it is feared that it may cause other problems to arise such as liver diseases.

Minister of Health Yang Berhormat Dato Paduka Dr Hj Zulkarnain Hj Hanafi was responding to a suggestion raised by Yang Berhormat Datin Paduka Hjh Zasia Sirin.

She said continuous measures and steps need to be taken to control or monitor medicine sold at supermarkets or online platforms to ensure its safety and side effects of consuming it.

YB Datin Paduka Hjh Zasia said some obese adults prefer not to consult a doctor or choose to exercise but instead look for other alternatives without taking into account the consequences.

“We cannot blame them as different people have different stigmas; some may be emotional and have low self esteem so they find their own solutions.”

YB Dato Paduka Dr Hj Zulkarnain said any medicine brought into the country must have a permit and is examined in terms of safety or any claim made for instance regarding weight loss.

He said the Department of Pharmaceutical Services conducts a post-marketing surveillance by using risk based assessment.

“Members of the public that need clarification on whether the products are safe (to be consumed) or allowed in the country, they can contact the ministry through the department.”

YB Dato Paduka Dr Hj Zulkarnain stressed that it is important not to wait for problems to arise but to avoid them.

He said the ministry and community can work together and form a partnership to hold activities and exercise sessions, adding that if the event needs to include (health) checkups, the ministry can send representatives from the Health Promotion Centre (HPC) and other relevant departments.

“In this regard, we do not have to wait for the ministry to organise such events but it should also come from the grassroot level.”

YB Datin Paduka Hjh Zasia also enquired on the shortage of local doctors and medical professionals.

Quoting an article published in 2014 on the doctor patient ratio in Brunei, she said the ratio is one doctor to 671 patients in Brunei, whereas one doctor sees 170 to 300 patients in developed countries.

One dentist is for every 4,253 patients in Brunei compared to one dentist for 600 to 1,300 persons in developed countries, she said.

She said as for pharmacist to population ratio, there is one pharmacist for every 7, 389 persons in Brunei, a huge difference when compared to developed countries where one pharmacist sees 500 to 1,200 persons.

Since then the ministry has shown positive improvements to meet the needs of a growing community for healthy living and a better quality of life.

She said the country is however still facing a shortage of local doctors and professionals as some have chosen to open their own clinics or work overseas.

YB Dato Paduka Dr Hj Zulkarnain said comparing the ratio (recorded on) 14 January 2014 to the current (ratio), it has increased.

“The insufficient ratio is not an excuse for us to not deliver our best service.”

The minister said the ratio of doctors as per the collected data as of present time, for (every) 10 thousand residents in Brunei, the ratio is approximately 14.4 (doctors) per 10 thousand residents.

“When compared with the neighboring countries, such as Malaysia, 12 per 10 thousand, (and) Singapore 19.5, we might have to chase (them) a little.”

He emphasised again that it is not an excuse and the ministry can still provide excellent service.

“In dentistry, Alhamdulillah, Brunei’s ratio is slightly better off 4.2 per 10 thousand residents. (When compared to) Malaysia and Singapore are 3.6 and 4.1 respectively. “

In addition, it should be emphasized that we are still far behind when compared with other developed countries such as Europe, Korea and so on, said the minister.

He said MoH will continue to work to ensure that the ratio of doctors to our population will increase.

YB Dato Paduka Dr Hj Zulkarnain said the establishment of the School of Medicine was to meet the needs of local doctors and the ministry has set up a plan and programme of specialist training, especially in Basic Health Programmes or Family Medicine.

He said the ministry also has an ongoing programme and collaboration with the Royal College of General Practitioner of the United Kingdom.

He said there are also plans to include other fields such as internal medicine, surgery, obstetrician gynecology.

InsyaAllah I will ensure that these programs will be carried out and formulated very soon. This does not mean that our experts wouldn’t be sent abroad.”

“We will repatriate some of the trainings to be within Brunei only as most diseases and conditions occurring in Brunei are sometimes unique to the country only.”

The Brunei Times