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Sunday, 18 June 2017

Making it cheaper for patients

PETALING JAYA: Consumers will soon be able to make better decisions when buying medicine, with a proposal by the Government to compel pharmaceutical companies to declare the prices of drugs to the Health Ministry.

This, in turn, would lead to the recommended retail price (RRP) of drugs being displayed on the product packaging and prevent retailers from making unreasonable increases in pricing.

“This will promote transparency in the pricing of medicines and drugs,” said Health Ministry deputy director-general Datuk Dr Jeyain­­dran Sinnadurai.

“But if retailers want to push the price even lower than the recommended retail price, no problem,” he said when contacted recently.

The move is still at an early stage but is in line with the ministry’s plan to compel drug price disclosure under a proposed amendment to the Sale of Drugs Act 1952 (Revised – 1989).

Ministry (pharmaceutical services division) senior director Dr Salmah Bahri had said earlier that the amendment would make it compulsory for companies and suppliers to register the retail prices of their products with the Govern­ment’s database, or face penalties.

“At present, there is already a database of some 23,000 drugs and medicines,” she said, adding that the ministry now wanted to make it mandatory for pharmaceutical companies to register the prices.

Dr Jeyaindran said displaying the RRP to consumers would stabilise pricing.

“Such added transparency in the pricing of drugs and medicines is practised by countries like India and Australia.

“Malaysia is trying to move in this direction as well,” he said.

On whether or not the proposed move would affect the pricing of medicines at clinics, he said this was unlikely because those medicines would be purchased in bulk.

Medical Practitioners Coalition Association of Malaysia deputy president Dr Raj Kumar Maharajah said that based on information he had gathered so far, the proposed move would not affect general practitioners (GPs) much.

“This is because medical GPs have been practising the ‘bundling’ system for many decades, whereby consultation, examination, procedures and medication are bundled to keep the price of private primary healthcare accessible and affordable even to the poorest of the poor,” he said.

He added that while the price of some components may either de­­­crease or increase in bundling, the final cost would remain the same.

“On the surface, this price control may seem to benefit patients who wish to buy their medicines over the counter, at provision stores or pharmacies.

“Patients who buy these medicines may be able to choose their medicines based on pricing but consumers must realise that cheap does not necessarily mean good or equally effective,” said Dr Raj Ku­­mar.

He hoped the association would be invited to future discussions so that it could give its input on the matter.

Related stories:

Patients might insist on cheapest version, says doc

Groups laud move to register medicine prices

Tags / Keywords: RRP , Health Ministry

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