KUALA LUMPUR, July 17 — The new Perikatan Nasional (PN) government is maintaining the previous Pakatan Harapan (PH) administration’s stand to control medicine prices, despite widespread opposition from the industry.
Health Minister Dr Adham Baba told Permatang Pauh MP Nurul Izzah Anwar (PKR) in a written Parliament reply Monday — who had asked about reducing sofosbuvir prices to increase accessibility of the Hepatitis C cure to patients — that “at this time, the Ministry of Health (MOH) and the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry are cooperating and working on preparing a price control mechanism for medicines.”
Then-Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad had proposed controlling medicine prices, even though general practitioners (GPs), pharmacists, private hospitals, and both local and multinational pharmaceutical companies had opposed legislated drug price ceilings.
Dr Rozita Halina Hussein, senior deputy director at MOH’s planning division, told the Monash Health Economics Forum 2019 last November that MOH’s proposed drug price regulations were simply a “pilot” project that targeted a limited number of single-source originator drugs.
MOH is targeting single-source innovative drugs sourced through public procurement in its first phase of price controls by using external reference pricing to benchmark drug prices in Malaysia against seven to eight countries. The average three lowest reference prices will be chosen to determine the maximum medicine prices allowed in Malaysia at the wholesale and retail levels (clinics, hospitals, pharmacies).
The Pharmaceutical Association of Malaysia (PhAMA), which represents multinational pharmaceutical corporations in Malaysia, has said its members are willing to declare wholesale medicine prices to MOH so that the government can look at retail prices instead, besides warning Putrajaya that drug price controls could hurt Malaysia’s medical tourism.