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Malaysia

Pharmaniaga outperform, why tilt the scales? — Nur Sakinah Yusof

NOVEMBER 11 — Pharmaniaga’s 10-year concession agreement with the Health Ministry is coming to an end very soon. Pharmaniaga remains optimistic of continuing to become the key distributor, albeit the Health Ministry announcing that they will not renew the concession agreement. The Health Ministry is set to dismantle the monopoly market and introduce a free market to manage the logistics and distributions of drugs and medical supplies in the healthcare industry. The transition won’t be a walk in the park as a clear outline of the open tender system has yet to be decided. Until then, Pharmaniaga will continue with its services to steer clear of disruption in the supply chain.

For the past 10 years, Pharmaniaga has continuously shown remarkable progress and achievements that contribute to where they stand today. They are the largest integrated pharmaceutical group in Malaysia and a leading pharmaceutical company in the regional countries. Pharmaniaga had won a couple of prestigious awards such HR Asia’s Best Companies to Work and Pharmaceutical Company of the Year (Generics Drug Category) in 2015 and was nominated as the Best Contract Pharmaceutical Manufacturer in 2018. The company takes an active part in developing their manufacturing, logistics and distribution facilities to provide first-class products and services, which reflects their company’s mission.

It is noteworthy that Pharmaniaga maintains the delivery period of pharmaceutical supplies to within seven working days in Peninsular Malaysia and 10 working days for Sabah and Sarawak. In collaboration with the Health Ministry, Pharmaniaga developed a system to reduce wastage through optimal inventory management for the use of all government hospitals and health facilities. Certainly, Pharmaniaga continues to be the best provider within the healthcare industry.

But why is there a need to change the system of an industry that has outperformed? Granted that the adoption of an open tender system may induce more competition within the industry and drive down the prices of drugs, this may not be the case at all. To illustrate this, simply look at the lamentable state of the pharmaceutical industry in the US. The manufacture and production of pharmaceutical products in the US is controlled by private companies. Even with clear and careful regulations, pharmaceutical companies have become a parasite in the healthcare industry, in which harm thousands of patients.

The highly competitive environment among pharmaceutical companies leads to the issue of prescribing unnecessary and harmful drugs to the patient. Inappropriate prescribing is an academically euphemism for prescriptions, for which the risks is far greater than the benefits.

Pharmaceutical companies invested heavily in advertising, up to US$6 billion (RM25 billion) in 2016 to push the drugs using misleading facts. They have a strong influence on the industry that it even makes it difficult for doctors to dodge the pharmaceutical sales reps and turn down sponsored lunches. These pharmaceutical reps are trained to offer doctors lucrative incentives in return for prescribing the drugs to their patients. Some doctors do not fall into the temptations but according to an analysis by ProPublica, many doctors have succumbed to the offer by receiving thousands of dollars. The unethical dilemma among doctors for prescribing unnecessary medications to the patient — the seven all-too-often-deadly sins of prescribing — is real.

In other words, the pharmaceutical companies in the US has corrupted the system that made thousands of patients suffered through overprescribing and inappropriate prescription of drugs. It is even more concerning that some of these prescribed drugs are manufactured by companies that are not properly regulated which could be harmful and addictive for the patients. We don’t need this problem in our country.

The US clearly illustrates that the adoption of open tender in the healthcare industry perhaps would not benefit the people, or worse, may create new problems. If the move to terminate concessionaire is to eliminate monopoly power in the industry, why targets the healthcare industry specifically? Other monopolies are underperforming in different sectors. Why censure a sector that is doing good, really good? The change of system is uncalled-for.

Failure to provide clear and proper planning to regulate the open-tender system will be subjected to the collapse of the healthcare industry and jeopardise thousands of patients’ welfare. On top of that, there are uncertainties that rival companies that fixate on winning the tender have the same capabilities as Pharmaniaga, especially when it comes to supplying drugs and medical equipment to remote areas in Sabah and Sarawak. Patients could have suffered if the services fall through.

Pharmaniaga is a relevant factor in shaping Malaysia to become one of the best healthcare in the world and has shown that they are more than capable to keep up with the demands of the healthcare industry. They remain to provide the best services and deliver it efficiently time after time. They are doing it right. Maybe it is best to leave Pharmaniaga alone, or we’re sketching an uncertain future for our healthcare industry.

*This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.

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