The Ministry of Health (MOH) has announced that it will look into sourcing more generic drugs in order to manage and reduce expenditure on pharmaceutical drugs and medications in healthcare.

“Last year, we spent RM 2.2 billion on medicine and up to October this year, RM 1.9 billion has been used up,” said Deputy Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Hilmi Yahaya, who added that the government spends an average of RM 2 billion for healthcare and treatment of two million patients annually.

Switch to generic drugs to manage healthcare costs

According to Hilmi, there was initially a RM380 million budget cut for the Health Ministry for 2016 however, “following an appeal from the ministry, the money will be given to the ministry in stages.”

“The RM 2 billion that the ministry will receive under Budget 2017 should be sufficient to ensure adequate supply of medicines at all healthcare centres,” he also said, adding that at present, the ratio of generic medicine and original drugs dispensed were 60% and 40% respectively, of which 30% of generic drugs were locally sourced and the remained 70% imported from overseas.

“To ensure generic drugs are of quality, a bio-equivalent test is done to determine if their contents are the same as those of original drugs,” he explained.

“Medicines are purchased on a contract basis and are well distributed across hospitals nationwide, hence there will not be any shortage of medicines,” he stressed.

Hilmi added that the ministry had already issued guidelines and will be taking additional measures to prevent wastage of medicines by enforcing stringent prescribing and dispensing practises, one of which was limiting patients’ supplies of medicines from three months to one month.

“As for patients getting their medicines from government pharmacists, we practice the top-up system, where patients will have to show the remainder medicines to get their medicines,” he said.

“Besides that, patients with unused or unutilised medicine are advised to return it to the clinics or hospitals to reduce wastage of medication.”

How will healthcare budget be managed?

Apart from more economical sources and dispensary of medication, the health ministry has also recently announced the increase in charges for services in first class and second class wards as of January 2017, however, reassuring the public that it the costs are still highly subsidised and will not burden citizens.

“Those who choose first class are those who can afford it. The increase in charges for first and second class wards is very minimal,” said Health Director-General Datuk Dr Noor Hisham.

According to Noor Hisham, Malaysia spends an average of 4.5% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on healthcare, with 84% of residents from rural areas having accessibility to healthcare within a 5km radius. However, it has been estimated that 39% of citizens still pay for health services out of their pockets, instead of being paid through government subsidy or private insurance.

Earlier this year, the Ministry announced that it would consider introducing a national health insurance scheme for citizens to have better healthcare access, with which allows the Ministry to look into public-private integration and partnerships and, according to Noor Hisham, is one of the Sustainable Development Goals.

“If we have that platform, most private hospitals would continue to expand not only in the urban areas, but in the rural areas as well, with the financing coming from the voluntary financial scheme,” Noor Hisham said, stressing that the public healthcare sector would still remain subsidised by the government. MIMS

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