Materia Medica Malaysiana

March 29, 2007

Medicines In Malaysia: High prices claim ‘misleading’

Filed under: Uncategorized — malaysianmedicine @ 9:40 am

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: The Health Ministry will look for ways to cut the price of medicines although it maintains that they are not as expensive as claimed in a study.
“At the moment there is no problem in the price of medicines. We are still cheaper than many of our neighbouring countries,” said the ministry’s pharmaceutical services division director Datuk Che Mohd Zin Che Awang.
He acknowledged that there was no control mechanism on the price of medicines but said the matter would require further study.
“We cannot say for sure whether we will control the price of essential drugs but we are trying to get the World Health Organisation to help us figure out ways to do it,” he told the New Straits Times yesterday.
He said the ministry would consult the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry as price controls were under the latter’s purview.
News reports had quoted Universiti Sains Malaysia lecturer Dr Zaheer Ud Din Babar as saying that Malaysians may be paying the highest prices in the world for medicines, a finding the ministry dismisses as “misleading”.
The 2005 study was conducted by University College Sedaya International and USM in collaboration with WHO and Health Action International.
Zaheer had said that doctors were marking up prices by up to 76 per cent for patented drugs and 316 per cent for generics.
Pharmacies, the study found, marked up prices by up to 140 per cent for generic drugs and 38 per cent for patented ones.
The study was published by the Public Library of Science (PLoS) Medicine, a peer-reviewed journal.
“The findings of the study are not true,” Che Mohd Zin said. He explained that the researchers’ use of the international reference price (IRP) guide was inaccurate.
The IRP, he said, was used by international non-profit suppliers and as tender prices, not retail prices.
“It also does not include insurance and delivery charges.
The ministry has its own study on drug prices in the public and private sectors which was published earlier this year in the first Medicine Price Monitoring System newsletter.
“We compared our drug prices with those in Kuwait, Jordan, Australia and the Philippines and found that the cost of medicines, especially those for critical illnesses, was much cheaper here.
The division studied 238 brands for 30 commonly used medicines that were collected from 33 public and 35 private premises.
Understandably, drugs in the public sector were four times cheaper than in the private sector, and gross retail prices in the private sector were four times higher than the IRP.
Zaheer, when contacted yesterday, said he stood by his research.

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