‘Health Ministry powerless over prices of drugs’

  • Nation
  • Friday, 06 Jul 2018

Health matters: Dr Dzulkefly sharing a light moment with Asian Strategy and Leadership Institute CEO Tan Sri Dr Michael Yeoh (left) and Health Ministry director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah (right) after officiating the Healthcare Forum 2018 at InterContinental Kuala Lumpur hotel.

KUALA LUMPUR: The Health Ministry currently does not have the power under the law to regulate the prices of drugs supplied in the private sector, says Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad.

However, the Health Minister said that the ministry intends to address the issue and will also get feedback from the Health Advisory Council.

Asked which law had to be changed, he said: “Wait for the Pharmacy Bill.”

Before the change of Government, former health minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam said the Bill had been referred to the Attorney General’s Chambers after further consultation with stakeholders.

The proposed Pharmacy Bill is an omnibus Bill to replace four Acts, i.e. Registration of Pharmacists, Poi­sons Act, Sale of Drugs Act and Medicines (Advertisement and Sale) Act.

The Star was made to understand that the Bill is now with the ministry’s legal section and would require the minister’s decision before it is tabled in Parliament.

Dr Dzulkefly said this after launching the Healthcare Forum 2018 – Sustaining Tomorrow’s Healthcare, Empowering Today’s Consumers.

He was asked if the Government would regulate the prices of drugs following the Malaysian Pharma­ceutical Socie­ty (MPS) and the Third World Network asking the Govern­ment to regulate the prices of drugs.

The two bodies said this not long after claims of politicians, high-ranking officials and international pharmaceutical companies monopolising the prices of medical supplies last month.

Asked about a complaint by MPS member Abdul Nassir Mat Dani that drug prices continued to soar despite the goods and services tax (GST) being abolished or zero-rated, Dr Dzulkefly said “we will investigate this”.

In an open letter addressed to the minister, Abdul Nassir said that as a private community pharmacy practitioner, he wanted to convey the people’s dissatisfaction on the sudden 20% to 35% increase in drug prices, especially on imported patented drugs besides certain generic drugs.

This occurred just after the recent general election on May 9 and despite GST being abolished or drugs being zero-rated and the better currency exchange rate which should see prices continue to stabilise or experience a little decrease, he said.

He urged the Health Minister to stop the excessive price increase.

MPS president Amrahi Buang said it has been receiving a lot of complaints about rising medicine prices because it is not regulated in this country.

For example, common diabetes drugs that went up within a month from last month were Glucophage (500mg), from RM206.00/500 tablets to RM216.00/500 tablets while Diamicron (80mg), from RM55.30/60 tablets to RM69.00/60 tablets, he said.

A Ventolin inhaler went up from RM18.50 to RM20.60.

Meanwhile, Dr Dzulkefly said the task force would look into a recent alleged drug and medical supplies monopoly claim next week.

On June 13, it was discovered that high-ranking officials and politicians or their relatives allegedly involved in bid rigging of the open tender process, controlling the supply of billions of ringgit worth of drugs supplied to the Government, could lead to high drug costs.

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