Materia Medica Malaysiana

March 28, 2007

Why Malaysians pay more for medicines

Filed under: Uncategorized — malaysianmedicine @ 9:14 am

NST: GEORGE TOWN: Malaysians are paying through their noses for medicines that should cost a fraction of their market price.
While their pockets get lighter, pharmacists and medical practitioners are laughing all the way to the bank.
It appears that Malaysians may, in fact, be paying the highest prices in the world for medicines.
A study by a team of local researchers showed that pharmacies marked up prices by up to 140 per cent for generic drugs and 38 per cent for patented drugs.
The research was conducted by University College Sedaya International and Universiti Sains Malaysia in collaboration with the World Health Organisation and Health Action International.
The results of the 2005 study were published in the PLoS Medicine journal yesterday.
Doctors marked up medicine prices by up to 76 per cent for patented drugs and 316 per cent for generics.
(A generic drug is a drug that is bio-equivalent to a branded drug, but is usually sold at a lower price.)
Universiti Sains Malaysia’s Dr Zaheer Ud Din Babar, one of four researchers involved in the study, said the absence of a price control mechanism for drugs was among the reasons for such high medicine prices.
He said add-on costs also had a substantial impact on medicine prices in Malaysia.
Dr Zaheer said, in Sri Lanka, the wholesale mark-up at pharmacies was just eight per cent while retailers’ mark-up was 16 per cent.
In Kenya, the private retail sector (for imported medicines) has a wholesale mark-up of 15 to 30 per cent and a maximum retailer mark-up of 20 to 33 per cent.
In Peru, the imported generic medicine mark-up by distributors was 36 per cent, while retailers’ mark-up was just 33 per cent.
“If you think it is unfair to compare Malaysia with only poor countries, then we have data to compare with prices in Belgium, Germany, France, Ireland and Italy.
“The wholesale margin for these countries is not more than 23 per cent. Only The Netherlands is 56 per cent.”
Dr Zaheer was speaking at the day-long seminar on “Equitable access to medicines for Malaysians: A way forward through a medicine pricing policy” at USM’s main campus, here, yesterday.
One of four speakers at the seminar, he presented a working paper titled “Evaluating medicine prices, availability, affordability and price components in Malaysia”.
Dr Zaheer said Malaysia had no history of price control on retail medicines.
“Recent research suggests that increasing the available choices of generics on the market does not, on its own, bring down prices.
“We seriously need to have a pricing policy, which takes into account the maximum wholesale and retail mark-ups as well as regulatory pricing for generics and patented drugs.”
He said it should be investigated why generics were expensive and generic availability of drugs was poor.
Dr Zaheer said most countries had pricing regulations and some, like France and Italy, even regulated drug prices directly through a price control mechanism.
In the United Kingdom, the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority monitors prices through the Pharmaceutical Price Regulation Scheme, which controls the prices of branded prescription drugs.

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