KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 7 — The consolidation of pharmaceutical manufacturer Eli Lilly and Company Malaysia’s operations into drugs distributor Zuellig Pharma Malaysia amid impending drug price controls may lead to higher medicine prices, a doctors’ group warned.
CodeBlue reported last month that Zuellig Pharma would absorb Eli Lilly and Company Malaysia’s staff and assume control of the US pharmaceutical giant’s sales and marketing in Malaysia effective last November 1. Lilly is the maker of popular diabetes treatment Humalog (insulin lispro).
“Yes, we expect the price hike to kick in within a couple of years. It will affect tens of thousands of patients whose health is dependent on their specialised medications which cannot be substituted by generics,” said FPMPAM president Dr Steven Chow to CodeBlue.
“If the price is not viable, it can be predicted that they will withdraw it from the Malaysian market and our patients can go over to get it in Singapore at Singapore prices plus consultation plus prescription plus logistic cost. That is the eventual scenario. It will not result in cheaper cost for our rakyat.”
But market analysts disagree.
“The price of medicines will probably remain more or less the same in the near future as any acute increase in drug prices will affect the market share of products immediately,” stated Monash University Malaysia pharmacy professor Kenneth Lee and pharmacy lecturer June Choon.
Lee believed that Malaysia’s plan to regulate medicine prices was one of the major factors leading to the acquisition of Lilly Malaysia’s operations.
“In the long run, price of medicines will depend on a number of factors such as whether there are any new products with similar indications entering the market, whether the government will exercise compulsory licensing for generic products etc,” Lee further added.
The worry about more expensive medicines could be misplaced, the analysts suggest, as the main concern is what the Lilly operations acquisition will do to Malaysia’s health care industry and in turn, the people. They said the acquisition was expected to cause a bigger impact on the health care industry, rather than higher drug prices.
“Nevertheless, the pullout of an MNC (multinational corporation) from Malaysia is a big setback for Malaysia because it means the multinational drug industry is not positive on its future in the country,” explained Choon.
Both Choon and Lee also expressed concern with the Health Ministry’s plan to impose drug price ceilings.
“The long-term effect of price control on drugs will affect the overall health of the country,” stated Lee.
Choon said: “Patients will also be denied of their chance of access to new, innovative medicines which are usually safer and more effective.”