Not substitutes for doctors, but here’s how pharmacists can help Malaysians manage diabetes better

3.6 million Malaysians are living with diabetes, a figure that is expected to rise to seven million by 2025. — Picture by Choo Choy May
3.6 million Malaysians are living with diabetes, a figure that is expected to rise to seven million by 2025. — Picture by Choo Choy May

PETALING JAYA, Nov 15 — Every eight seconds, a person dies from diabetes complications somewhere in the world.

In Malaysia, 3.6 million people are living with diabetes and the figure is expected to hit seven million by 2025.

According to the International Diabetes Federation, 425 million are living with diabetes which translates to one in 11 adults have diabetes.

The disease is the main cause of vision loss, stroke, kidney failure, heart disease and amputations.

In conjunction with World Diabetes Day yesterday, Caring Pharmacy announced a collaboration with Holista Colltech, recognising the key role pharmacists play in helping diabetes patients manage the disease.

Some 50 per cent of all people with diabetes are undiagnosed and a simple blood glucose test at a pharmacy can help detect the disease and direct them to seek medical attention.

Due to their position as accessible health care providers, pharmacists are also able to provide information in the areas of education, screening, treatment, supplements as well as treatment and lifestyle support.

Rajen said policymakers play a role in improving the lives of Malaysians with diabetes. — Picture by Choo Choy May
Rajen said policymakers play a role in improving the lives of Malaysians with diabetes. — Picture by Choo Choy May

While Holista Colltech founder and chief executive officer Datuk Rajen Manicka believes pharmacists can play a bigger role in helping Malaysians manage diabetes, it is important to remember that pharmacists are not substitutes for doctors.

“The ultimate responsibility in the care of any disease especially long term lies with the doctor.

“Both Caring Pharmacy and Holista fully understand this,” Rajen told Malay Mail.

The objective of the campaign, he explained, is to show Malaysians the wider role of pharmacists without undermining doctors.

“All our communication will be directed towards educating consumers to take control of their health and their disease by working with the doctors and pharmacists and other allied professionals like nurses, dieticians and nutritionists,” Rajen said.

Under the Live Well with Diabetes Programme, Caring and Holista will offer personal care for diabetics which includes comprehensive diabetes services, awareness campaigns and access to extensive knowledge such as the importance of screenings, medication and nutrition.

To keep up with the digital age, Caring’s newly launched Diabetes Management System (DMS) gives patients instant access to a pharmacist to monitor blood sugar level readings.

Chong spoke about Caring’s newly launched Diabetes Management System (DMS) which allows patients to have instant consultation through WhatsApp. — Picture by Choo Choy May
Chong spoke about Caring’s newly launched Diabetes Management System (DMS) which allows patients to have instant consultation through WhatsApp. — Picture by Choo Choy May

“If you notice there is a spike in your blood sugar reading, you can reach a pharmacist through WhatsApp and ask for advice,” he explained.

“We believe through this close connection and engagement, we are like a diabetic patient’s personal coach,” said Caring Pharmacy managing director Chong Yeow Siang during a media briefing yesterday.

The virtual platform aims to improve blood sugar management efficiency by reducing travelling time and data transfer errors.

The patient’s sugar level data is then stored in the cloud.

“This allows you to have instant access to your blood sugar level readings when you’re doing consultations with your pharmacist or doctors,” Chong said.

Rajen and Chong with other Caring Pharmacy pharmacists at the Live Well with Diabetes Programme launch. — Picture by Choo Choy May
Rajen and Chong with other Caring Pharmacy pharmacists at the Live Well with Diabetes Programme launch. — Picture by Choo Choy May

The importance of family participation

Reflecting on the theme of this year’s World Diabetes Day, ‘Protect Your Family’, Rajen stressed that those diagnosed with the disease will eventually require the help of family members.

This includes meal choices and learning how to deal with hypoglycemic episodes.

“We now need to educate not just diabetes patients but also the family,” Rajen said.

He added that there was a need to inform the public on how to manage diabetes instead of inducing fear.

“We are very good at scaring and treatment but when it comes to how to live with diabetes, we are lousy,” he said.

To illustrate a point, Rajen said many were not aware that 50 per cent of Type 2 diabetes is preventable.

Key areas to consider in health policies

As a nation with the highest rate of diabetes in Asia, there are three key areas that require attention from the country’s policymakers.

Preventive measures such as the sugar tax may not be popular but was necessary to address Malaysia’s uncontrolled consumption of sugar.

“Whenever you see sugar taxes implemented, you see a big improvement in the outcomes in obesity and diabetes whether it’s Mexico, New York, France, the Philippines and Thailand,” said Rajen.

The second area, he said, is education.

“If the government can allocate a portion of its sugar tax for education programmes, it would make the public more aware,” said Rajen, whose company specialises in low glycemic index (GI) food products.

He also said the Health Ministry must loosen up some of its policies in order to allow doctors and pharmacists to operate better and insurance companies must reexamine its pre-existing condition clause that deny diabetes patients’ access to healthcare.

“For example, someone with a pre-existing condition of diabetes cannot get insurance, I don’t think it’s fair.

“There should be a way around this because it appears like big companies are bullying ‘small,’ poor, diabetic patients,” he said.

In the same light, drug companies with unrealistic pricing was also unfair for those living with the disease.

“This is where the health ministry can play a role in making life better for Malaysians with diabetes,” said Rajen.

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