The Malaysian government has urged pharmaceutical companies to display the recommended retail price of medicines on the packaging, to curb retailers from hiking prices unreasonably.

"This will promote transparency in the pricing of medicines and drugs. But if retailers want to push the price even lower than the recommended retail price, no problem," said Datuk Dr Jeyaindran Sinnadurai, deputy diector-general of the Ministry of Health (MOH).

The MOH previously planned on amending the Sale of Drugs Act 1952 to have pharmaceutical companies register recommended retail prices in a database or face penalties.

Dr Jeyaindran said that such practices have been implemented in countries like Australia and India, which have proven an increased "transparency in the pricing of drugs".

Display of drug pricing may backfire, says MMA

However, the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) warned that the move to display drug pricing might also backfire as patients would opt for cheaper alternatives instead of effective medicines.

"Doctors choose (medicine) based on their evaluation of efficacy and price among others. If this list is published, patients might insist on the cheapest version, which might not be suitable for them," said MMA president, Dr Ravindran R Naidu.

He added that maintaining an accurate price list for the drugs might be challenging as many drug companies have tiered pricing and bonus schemes, which sees the same drug having different prices depending on the medical institution or doctor.

As such, the MOH will hold a meeting with the National Pharmaceutical Control Bureau and key pharmaceutical industry players to discuss the initiative.

Meeting will focus on affordability of medicines

Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam said the prices of medicines, which varied in different hospitals and places, needed to be standardised in order for them to be disclosed.

"We want patients to have access to medicines at reasonable cost and it should be standardised," he said.

The early-stage initiative is in line with MOH's plan to compel drug price disclosure under a proposed amendment to the Sale of Drugs Act.

The soon-to-be-held meeting will focus on the affordability of medicines for Malaysians, Dr Subramaniam said.

"Although it is a suggestion, we are going to sit down, address the issue and work out a mechanism to do this. The ministry, the bureau and industry players will discuss the implications of the implementation to make sure it is done in a way that is acceptable," he said.

"At the end of the day, it is very important that those who will benefit from this are the patients," he added.

The proposal will only be brought to the Parliament after a common consensus is reached. MIMS

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