PETALING JAYA, June 13 – Pharmaniaga Bhd said it has ramped up production ahead of anticipated increases in demand for various drugs, with the company having three to six months’ worth of buffer stock for most medicines under its portfolio.
Pharmaniaga group managing director Zulkarnain Md Eusope has denied any shortages in its medicine stock as the state-owned company had prior insight as to when the federal government intended to reopen its international borders.
“Here at Pharmaniaga, we have a buffer stock of three to six months for most of our products. That’s why we don’t feel the brunt of the shortage as much because we’ve anticipated when the government will announce the [lifting] of the movement control order (MCO),” Zulkarnain said during a media briefing on Pharmaniaga’s 2022 first quarter financial performance here today.
Pharmaniaga is the main supplier of drugs to the Ministry of Health (MOH).
The company’s top two shareholders are Boustead Holdings Bhd at 51.85 per cent and the Armed Forces Fund Board (LTAT) at 8.62 per cent. Boustead’s largest shareholders are LTAT (59.43 per cent) and the Retirement Fund (Incorporated) or KWAP (5.22 per cent). KWAP manages the pension scheme for Malaysia’s public employees.
Zulkarnain also attributed Pharmaniaga’s preparedness to its diverse supply chain, saying each of the company’s products has at least three alternative suppliers in the event of any shortage or fluctuation of active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) prices.
“For the medicines that we produce, either for the government or the private sector, currently, we don’t face any shortages. As I mentioned just now, we have buffers that last for three to six months, and we keep buying our stock from various countries.
“Currently, we are getting some from India and Taiwan. So, we are very careful in choosing our API suppliers,” Zulkarnain said.
The current medicine supply shortages were triggered by the recent China shutdowns, the Russia-Ukraine war, and prolonged global lockdowns during the past two years of the pandemic that affected global shipping and logistics, combined with surging global demand as countries reopened this year.
Citing the company’s production of paracetamol, Pharmaniaga deputy managing director Mohamed Iqbal Abdul Rahman said the company more than doubled its production of the common painkiller following a surge in demand for the medication.
“We have increased our capacity (for paracetamol) by more than double, more than 100 per cent. Why? Because Omicron, though it’s not deadly, it’s not very severe, people still get coughs and colds so they are taking paracetamol heavily. As a result, the world demand for paracetamol has increased.
“So, automatically when it increases, you need to get your API on time – it’s all about timing. Our paracetamol stock will be normalising this month. We don’t foresee any issues with paracetamol in our stock,” Mohamed Iqbal said.
“In other words, we’re manufacturing beyond the ordinary – not just based on demands from general practitioners (GPs) or clinics. We produce extra medicines in case there is a spike in order,” Mohamed Iqbal added.
Meanwhile, Zulkarnain said Pharmaniaga will have a vaccine for hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD) ready by 2023.
“We take this disease (HFMD) very seriously and we are working closely with our partners to produce a vaccine. Hopefully by 2023, the vaccine will be ready and be commercialised by 2024. It has been in our plan since 2018,” Zulkarnain said.
Pharmaniaga also expects to secure a new logistics and distribution concession agreement with the MOH by the end of the year. “The group is finalising the logistics and distribution contract extension agreement with the MoH, slated to be completed by the end of 2022,” Zulkarnain said.
Its current concession with MOH will end this year.