By DASHVEENJIT KAUR / Pic By ISMAIL CHE RUS
The Ministry of Health (MoH) will be proposing a mechanism to control the prices of drugs through the Price Control and Anti-Profiteering Act 2011 to the ensure affordability of medicines.
Minister Datuk Seri Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad (picture) said the proposed price control mechanism is to set a ceiling selling price for consumers in all dispense channels, which is viewed as the most suitable method to do so, in line with international best practices.
“Such an initiative will indirectly streamline the prices of medicines and ensure the people to have access to affordable medicines,” he told the Dewan Rakyat yesterday.
Dr Dzulkefly was replying to a question from Klang MP Charles Santiago who wanted to know the measures taken by the ministry to standardise the price of medicines in the country and steps to reduce them.
He added that the ministry had taken into consideration the interests of all parties including industry players, medical practitioners and the people when it comes to detailing the proposed drug price control mechanism.
Replying to a supplementary question from Santiago on the prices of drugs in Malaysia being 30% to 180% higher than other countries, Dr Dzulkefly said the government acknowledges the situation and that his ministry is working on the price control mechanism.
“Through the World Health Organisation guidelines in regulating mark-ups in the pharmaceutical supply and distribution chain, they could determine a ceiling price which would be the most important mechanism in the standardisation of drug prices.
“I understand the differences in prices at pharmaceutical outlets, dispensaries and specifically in private hospitals, because the problem of prices being marked up is happening without any control,” he said, admitting that private hospitals have the tendency to charge more compared to government hospitals.
On the initiatives to assist local generic drug industry, Dr Dzulkefly said the government has always encouraged the use affordable generic medicines by prioritising locally made medicines in the procurement of drugs for the public sector.
“The ministry’s procurement of medicines is based on the principles of accountability, transparent management, best value, as well as fair and equitable competition,” he added.
The minister also said the procurement of medicines for MoH is implemented either by open tenders, or through the appointment of concessionaires, in accordance with the laws and regulation.
Procurement through imports would only be considered after confirmation that such medication could not be obtained locally, he added.
According to the ministry, the percentage of generic medicine compared to innovators stood at 53.6% last year at a procurement value of RM1.3 billion, of which 50.3% was locally produced.
On measures taken by the government to help the local generic drugs industry develop and export products to other Asean countries, Dr Dzulkefly said it is the government’s policy to assist the local industry to thrive.
“There are at least 18 generic drugs companies, of which 10 are Bumiputera firms, involved in the supply of such drugs through concessionnaires like Pharmaniaga Bhd, whether through tender or direct procurement.
“The local producers were subjected to two different tests to ensure the safety and efficacy of the drugs,” he said.
Dr Dzulkefly also dismissed Pontian MP Datuk Seri Ahmad Maslan’s question on whether generic drugs are considered “second class”.
“If a generic drug can be registered after passing biomolecular studies, then there is no such thing as second class for they are of the same standard as innovator drugs.
“Drugs that are produced by the industry are of the same level in terms of effectiveness and safety,” he added.