APHM Not Losing Sleep Over ‘Isolated’ Medicine Shortages

The Association of Private Hospitals Malaysia insists that reported drug shortages are limited to certain facilities and that none of the major private hospitals are in a critical situation.

KUALA LUMPUR, June 16 – The Association of Private Hospitals Malaysia (APHM) maintains that reported medicine shortages in private hospitals are not critical, saying only some facilities have scarce drug supplies.

APHM president Dr Kuljit Singh said major private hospitals have indicated that they still have alternatives for certain medications that are in short supply, mainly for common ailments like cough and cold, while drugs for life-saving conditions are sufficient.

He acknowledged that some “isolated” private hospital pharmacies may be facing critical medicine shortages, but claimed that most private hospitals are managing well, especially medical centres operated by large corporations.

“As for us in APHM, we admit it’s an issue, but not critical till we cannot sleep,” Dr Kuljit told CodeBlue yesterday.

CodeBlue reported Tuesday an anonymous account from a procurement pharmacist working in a private hospital outside the Klang Valley about the dire medicine shortage at her facility that was worrying her every night, as “many drugs are running critically low”.

The pharmacist said the medicine shortage this time was extraordinarily bad, involving longer delays of deliveries and affecting many more drugs, compared to previous occasional shortages.

She noted that the current shortage affected not just respiratory-related and paediatric medications for fever, and cough and cold, but also crucial drugs to treat asthma attacks and psychiatric or neurological conditions like epilepsy and anxiety.

Asthma attacks can be serious or fatal. Although seizures or panic attacks won’t cause death, the lack of certain benzodiazepines to treat these conditions may be severely debilitating to the patient.

The pharmacist also claimed to have driven a five-hour round trip to borrow medications from another hospital and alleged that her coworkers suffered verbal abuse from doctors when usually prescribed innovator drugs or even generic alternatives went out of stock, forcing a switch to different drugs with similar therapeutic effects.

“It’s isolated as I have repeatedly checked with all major private hospitals; it’s not critical,” Dr Kuljit insisted.

“All major private hospitals’ group pharmacy heads are in contact with me. I can help this pharmacist with their issues if she can contact me directly; I can sort it out.”

Dr Kuljit welcomed Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin’s announcement that Ministry of Health (MOH) facilities are now permitted to loan medicine supplies to private clinics or hospitals that are in need.

Khairy issued the statement Monday after a children’s clinic in Miri, Sarawak, pleaded for assistance from Miri Hospital when most paediatric medications at the private facility, including salbutamol syrup to treat acute or severe asthma, ran out.

MOH, health care providers across the public and private sectors, and the pharmaceutical industry have yet to specify the health care facilities, towns, or cities that are facing medicine shortages, or which therapeutic areas are seeing low drug supplies, aside from certain antibiotics and over-the-counter medications for fever, flu, and cough and cold.

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