Drug price regulations good but be fair to all stakeholders, says MP

Dr Kelvin Yii

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KUCHING, May 3: The drug price regulations introduced by the federal government yesterday is a good move to address the increasing cost of medicine and to ensure access to medicine at appropriate prices under the Price Control and Anti-Profiteering Act 2011.

In addition, it will also encourage innovation and healthy competition for industry growth, said Dr Kelvin Yii, the Bandar Kuching MP.

“This is an important step in ensuring better access to affordable healthcare services for all our people, especially with our increasing ageing community,” he said in a statement today.

Citing the 2019 Global Medical Trend Rates Report published by international professional services consulting firm AON, he said a net growth of 13.6 per cent of medicine inflation rate in Malaysia had been forecasted. This is almost 5.7 times the median inflation rate in the country.

He said according to the Medicine Prices Monitoring 2017 report, the median mark-up for originators and lowest-priced generics retail price in private hospitals is about 51 and 167 per cent respectively, while in pharmacies, the numbers are lower, at about 22.4 and 94.7 per cent respectively.

“This shows that the markup range can be rather high, and in private hospital, it is estimated that it can hit up to 117.4 or even 900 per cent.

“Due to lower cost of these generic drugs, it allows the private hospitals, clinics or even pharmacy to markup the final selling price, and this may affect an increase of prices across the board,” he said.

Dr Yii said this was an issue that he had personally debated in the last Parliament session, especially on the government’s intention to introduce a price control mechanism on medical drugs or a ceiling price to keep the cost of healthcare at a reasonable and competitive level.

“While in principle I am supportive of the move to introduce a price control mechanism, but it is also important to understand the complexity of the issue and that such policy implementation will not cause any unintended consequential effects, especially to the smaller clinics and pharmacies.

“That is why it is important that the government be transparent on the mechanism it intends to use, especially in determining the ceiling price for these medications,” he added.

Dr Yii pointed out that the price regulation mechanism has to be transparent to make sure the ceiling price properly reflects the changing economy on top of other factors, such as the cost that goes into manufacturer, cost of registration, cost of bioequivalence studies for generic drugs, inflation, budget impact analysis from manufacturer, cost-effectiveness analysis from the government per item, and also the GDP and income level of the people.

On top of that, he added, transparency actually needed to work both ways, between the manufacturer and the regulators, which is the government, in this case.

Besides a transparent price-control mechanism by the regulators, Dr Yii said there had to be better accountability in terms how profits are derived by the manufacturers on the drugs produced so that a proper ceiling price could be established after considering all the different factors.

Hence, he added, it was wise of the Health Ministry in wanting to gather further feedback and consultations with the pharmaceutical industry to discuss the price control mechanism.

“We must ensure the readiness of the industry and whether all stakeholders have been engaged and their concerns have been properly listened to.

“So, the intention by the ministry is a good step forward, although a holistic understanding of the issue is also important so that the issue at hand can be properly addressed without unintended consequences,” Dr Yii said. — DayakDaily