Malaysian Pharmacists Society (MPS) is in support of the price control on Covid-19 self-test kits that was announced by the government.
We had called for it on August 6, 2021, via a letter to Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs (KPDNHEP) minister Alexander Nanta Linggi, on August 18 during a meeting with KPDNEHP, and on August 19 via our press statement.
In each case, we highlighted the need to make self-test kits affordable on the condition that community pharmacists are treated fairly.
The meeting on 18 Aug with KPDNHEP was also attended by representatives of the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA), along with 19 big chain community pharmacies. The actual ceiling price for self-test kits was not discussed with industry stakeholders.
Therefore, it is rather unprofessional of KPDNHEP to claim that it is capping the price at RM19.90 after receiving positive feedback from the industry stakeholders. The link to KPDNHEP’s statement can be found here.
Currently, the self-test kit cost price is in the range of RM22 to RM32, which is way above the capped price of RM19.90. As such, it would be best if KPDNHEP can subsidise the self-test kit costs for community pharmacies.
Alternatively, KPDNHEP should also call upon suppliers to provide rebates for pharmacies. As a Sarawakian, the minister should know that the logistics cost price for Sabah, Sarawak and Labuan remain high.
Given the sudden announcement by the ministry, it is impossible for pharmacies to clear their stocks using the old prices. Why wasn’t a grace period given to the industry players?
Community pharmacies are frontliners in battling the Covid-19 pandemic. They have continuously opened their outlets to serve the public, not to incur further losses.
That is why, in the absence of a grace period (which is too late to implement), KPDNHEP must allow pharmacies to return stocks that were purchased at higher prices, or get suppliers to subsidise the cost.
The announcement by KPDNHEP today is reminiscent of its announcement made over the price controls for face masks. It has been done haphazardly without planning, and in the absence of due notice to stakeholders.
MPS also urges the KPDNHEP enforcement arm not to victimise community pharmacists by conducting unnecessary raids. It should instead focus on reducing illegal online sales of Covid-19 self-test kits, which goes against the policies set by the Ministry of Health.
It is also high time that the KPDNHEP enforcement arm conduct spot checks on non-community pharmacies and private health care facilities such as D-I-Y stores and roadside shops that sell self-test kits and other medical products.
The Malaysian Communication and Multimedia Commission should also play a proactive role in curbing the online sales of self-test kits by unscrupulous parties.
Amrahi Buang is president of the Malaysian Pharmacists Society (MPS).
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