Probe claims of procurement monopoly, MMA tells health ministry

AFP pic.

PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) today urged the health ministry to conduct open and independent investigations into claims of a monopoly which could have increased the cost of drugs supplied to government hospitals throughout the country.

The MMA, which previously called on the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) to act on the allegations, said the ministry’s response to the matter had been “curiously off-target”.

“A press statement by the minister merely points out that Pharmaniaga does not have a monopoly on the supply of drugs, and that the contract between the ministry and Pharmaniaga contains targets and deliverables.

“With respect, this does not address the issues and allegations,” MMA president Dr Ravindran Naidu said in a statement.

Earlier this month, Health Minister Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad said it was inaccurate to say that Pharmaniaga had a monopoly in the industry as there were also other vendors supplying directly to all ministry health facilities.

He said in 2017, the ministry’s expenditure on medicines and consumable items was around RM3.3 billion. About 33.4% (RM1.1 billion) of pharmaceutical spending was from the concessionaire company, while 66.6% (RM2.2 billion) was from purchases by its health facilities such as hospitals and clinics, through central contracts or quotations.

“Pharmaniaga’s role in the tendering process is limited to managing advertisements for the bidding process. The selection processes of products are managed by the health ministry. As a result of the tendering process, 89 other suppliers were selected in 2017,” he said.

However, Ravindran said it could not be expected that the allegations against Pharmaniaga would be “100% accurate in all their details” as “corruption does not happen in the open”.

“The fact that Pharmaniaga controls 30% or 40% rather than 100% of the drug supply does not therefore mean that the allegations are untrue.

“Of course, it doesn’t mean that they are true either,” he said.

Adding that MMA was convinced by Dzulkefly’s sincerity and desire to improve the country’s healthcare, he said the obvious route was to have an independent party such as the MACC investigate the allegations.

“If they are true, the ministry has been paying too much for drugs, with potential adverse effects on the health of all our people.

“If they are false, the ministry and the public will be able to enjoy renewed confidence. Whatever the investigations reveal, the fact that they are carried out openly and independently will be an invaluable symbolic gesture, at least.”

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