Pharmaniaga issue: Think tank happy minister ready to review healthcare procurement

Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad. (Bernama pic)

PETALING JAYA: A think tank concerned with issues on public health has welcomed Putrajaya’s assurance to review the public healthcare procurement process, in light of criticism of the previous government’s policy of allowing the concession only to local pharmaceutical giant Pharmaniaga Berhad.

The Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy said it was encouraged by Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad’s acknowledgement of the existence of “opaque direct-negotiation mechanisms” in concession agreements, saying they were contrary to best practices in healthcare delivery systems.

“We agree with his position that this must change to ensure that it is just and fair to all through competition,” it said in a statement today.

“This will help ensure that patients continue to have the best access to life-saving drugs and to have improved availability of the latest medicines and treatment,” it added.

Pharmaniaga has a 10-year concession to purchase, store, supply and distribute both branded and generic approved drugs and medical products to government hospitals, clinics and district health offices nationwide, which ends this year.

Galen said it supported Dzulkefly’s call for a “competitive, accountable and transparent” drug procurement and supply chain framework.

Dzulkefly had said that a task force would be set up to study procurement practices by his ministry.

He said the ministry would review the end-to-end supply chain economics as well as demand and supply issues to achieve better transparency, cost savings and efficiency in the procurement of medicines and consumables.

He said there was a need for a more competitive mechanism that was fair and equitable to all suppliers and manufacturers to ensure affordable medicines for the people.

Galen had earlier urged the ministry to review the role of Pharmaniaga, saying the government-linked company essentially acted as a middleman.

“It is time that the ministry deals directly with pharmaceutical companies rather than depend on a middleman,” its CEO Azrul Mohd Khalib had said, adding that this would save millions of ringgit.

Galen today said the task force would go a long way towards ensuring continued accessible and affordable quality healthcare.

It said Pharmaniaga’s sole role in procuring and supplying the materials in the public health sector was shown by numerous business market research reports and the government’s own documents.

This, it added, included the Malaysia Competition Commission’s (MyCC) report titled “Market Review on Priority Sector under Competition Act 2010 – Pharmaceutical Sector” released on Dec 27 last year.


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