IHH: Drug Price Controls Not The End All Be All

IHH managing director and CEO Dr Tan See Leng’s reported quotes were taken out of context.

KUALA LUMPUR, May 30 — IHH Healthcare Bhd clarified a news report that claimed it supported the Health Ministry’s move to regulate the price of medicines.

The hospital government-linked corporation (GLC), which touts itself as the largest health care provider in Asia, said outgoing managing director and CEO Dr Tan See Leng’s quotes at a press conference Tuesday as reported by The Star were taken out of context.

“IHH supports the government’s efforts to reign in medical inflation.

“However, we believe that it is crucial to enact policies that holistically address the issue by considering the health care financing structure and its various stakeholders, and not focus strictly on drug price controls per se,” IHH said in a statement.

“IHH remains fully aligned with Association of Private Hospitals Malaysia’s (APHM) call and efforts to continue collaborative engagement with the authorities and broader stakeholders to ensure an effective solution for Malaysia,” added the operator of Pantai and Gleneagles Hospitals.

APHM said recently that it did not support any move to control the price of drugs in private hospitals, pointing out that medicine administered in private hospitals came with direct and indirect costs that varied across facilities, such as medication review, drug counselling, compliance monitoring, and titration of dosage as a patient’s condition changes.

APHM president Dr Kuljit Singh said a unilateral move to regulate the price of “medication services” in private hospitals without realigning the “distorted” payment system in such facilities would hurt private hospitals’ viability.

Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad announced recently that the Cabinet has approved medicine price controls that will be imposed through a regulation under the Price Control and Anti-Profiteering Act 2011.

The Health Ministry plans to use external reference pricing to benchmark against cheaper drug prices in other countries. Price ceilings will then be set accordingly at the wholesale and retail points, be it at clinics, hospitals, or pharmacies.

Malaysia is the only country in Southeast Asia that is estimated to experience double-digit medical inflation this year, hitting 13.6 per cent compared to 12.4 per cent in 2018. The 2019 projected medical inflation rate is almost 5.7 times that of the general inflation forecast of 2.4 per cent, according to Aon’s 2019 Global Medical Trend Rates Report.   

Industry stakeholders have suggested that Malaysia adopt social health insurance to curb rising costs amid a limited taxation-based government budget for health care.

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