Malaysia’s Ministry of Health (MOH) admitted on 20 August that the shortage of drug supply for certain medications was due to problems being faced by drug manufacturers.

The issue was further worsened by a hike in the number of patients going to the MOH’s facilities this year, remarked Health director-general, Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah.

“This year’s allocation for the procurement of the medicines is sufficient. The drugs were distributed to all hospitals based on the expenditure last year,” he explained.

As such, Dr Noor Hisham said the situation has been monitored closely by the MOH, and “alternative sources for the medicines were being identified to ensure adequate supply.”

He further added that “Additional allocations on drug purchase were also distributed to hospitals to ensure enough medical supplies to the patients and (such a shortage) will not burden them.”

Patients now rationed to weekly medical supplies

This comes after Malaysian Insight, a news portal, reported on 14 August about the shortage of medicines at government hospitals – in which patients were rationed to less than a month’s supplies.

Additionally, some patients were also advised to obtain medical supplies weekly, especially for those with high cholesterol and blood pressure.

“This is troublesome for middle-aged people like me who have to drive to the hospital to pick up our medicine, as there is barely any parking space available at the hospital,” lamented Clement Chong, a 50-year old former civil servant who makes weekly trips to the government hospital in Kota Kinabalu for ointments to treat his skin condition.

The news portal further reported that “not enough stock” and “patients are encouraged to buy their own” were some of the responses patients have received – whenever they requested a bigger supply of drugs or medical supplies for cleaning and dressing wounds.

Drug shortages not due to budget cuts, MOH reassures

Health Deputy director-general Dr Jeyaindran Sinnadurai agreed that government hospitals were facing these problems, nonetheless emphasised that they were not caused by budget cuts.

He highlighted that the MOH had received an extra RM2 billion in the 2017 national budget, totalling to RM24 billion this year. Dr Jeyaindran instead, echoed Dr Noor Hisham’s statement that there was a 20% increase in the number of patients going to government hospitals for treatment this year. In addition, there were difficulties with the drug distributors and the problem is “expected to clear up in the next two to three weeks.”

The one-month medical supplies policy at the MOH’s facilities have been implemented since last year to ensure patients’ understanding and compliance to the prescribed medicines, as well as to prevent wastage, asserted Dr Noor Hisham.

“In ensuring a continuous drug supply, the current budgets are constantly being reviewed and any changes to the allocations will be distributed from time to time,” he affirmed. MIMS

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