Pharmacists Want Mandated Supplier Rebates For Current Covid-19 Test Stock

The Malaysian Community Pharmacy Guild says suppliers are profiting the most from the ceiling price for Covid-19 self-test kits, while pharmacies are forced to shoulder the cost alone.

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 3 — The Malaysian Community Pharmacy Guild (MCPG) today urged the government to mandate supplier credit notes or rebates to community pharmacies for Covid-19 test kit stocks purchased before the imposition of retail ceiling prices.

MCPG president Lovy Beh said while the group welcomed the government’s move to make Covid-19 self-test kits more affordable for ordinary Malaysians, it meant that community pharmacies have to bear the cost of self-test kits purchased at previous prices exceeding the new ceiling price of RM19.90.

“This means that suppliers have been making hefty profits all these while, even as we succumbed to their requirements like bulk purchasing with various tier pricings, and cash terms in order to maintain a reasonable price for consumers – affecting our cash flow and stock management.

“The government, meanwhile, has left us in the dark regarding this new ceiling price. We were not informed or consulted in any way, and are now given a short timeframe to implement it in three days’ time from September 5, 2021,” Beh said in a statement today.

She said similar issues came about when face mask ceiling prices were introduced last year when the Covid-19 outbreak first began, forcing community pharmacists to shoulder the cost alone, while they took hits to their reputation as professional health care providers.

“In the future, if ceiling prices are to be introduced, it should be done so from day one and not halfway through. Now pharmacists are portrayed as the villains and the government the heroes, with suppliers profiting the most in this arrangement,” Beh said.

The government announced yesterday a retail ceiling price of RM19.90 and wholesale ceiling price of RM16 for Covid-19 self-test kits that would come into effect on September 5. Pharmaceutical professional groups, including the Malaysian Pharmacists Society (MPS), however, claimed that the decision was made unilaterally.

MPS president Amrahi Buang said while a meeting was held between industry stakeholders and Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs (KPDNHEP) minister Alexander Nanta Linggi on August 18 to make self-test kits affordable, the actual ceiling price for self-test kits was not discussed.

Amrahi said 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,” he said. Amrahi also insisted that KPDNHEP call on suppliers to provide rebates for pharmacies.

Alexander, in a separate statement today, denied MPS’ claims that the decision to cap self-test kit prices was made hastily, saying that KPDNHEP planned for the price ceiling a month ahead of its implementation.

He said various consultation sessions were held with relevant industry stakeholders, government agencies such as the Ministry of Health and the Royal Customs Department, pharmaceutical associations, manufacturers, distributors, importers, and retailers to obtain accurate information on the supply and sale of the self-test kits.

“Although the content of the discussion did not touch specifically on the actual price control, all industry players involved should know that the purpose of the discussion was to obtain counsel on pricing and supply mechanisms,” Alexander said.

“Every detail and feedback from the engagement session is taken into account by KPDNHEP in implementing the maximum pricing decision provided under Section 4 of the Price Control and Anti-Profiteering Act 2011 (AKHAP 2011) as used for face masks and bottled pure palm cooking oil previously,” Alexander added.

He said the implementation of the price control and its enforcement on Covid-19 antigen rapid test kit (self-test) in the local market was also approved and supported by the MOH through the Medical Devices Authority (MDA) for national interest to encourage self-monitoring by detecting and controlling the transmission of the Covid-19 disease by consumers.

“I would really appreciate it if MPS is more rational and realistic with the current situation where the self-testing equipment is a sensitive item in terms of pricing and supply to the people during this pandemic.”

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