PETALING JAYA: A DAP MP has called on the health ministry to reveal the key performance indicators (KPIs) of drug maker Pharmaniaga, following questions over the company’s 10-year concession to purchase, store, supply and distribute approved drugs to government hospitals, clinics and district health offices nationwide.
The contract is set to end in November 2019.
In a recent report by The Malaysian Reserve, Deputy Health Minister Dr Lee Boon Chye said Pharmaniaga’s contract would continue as it had been complying with its contract requirements and technical specifications.
However, Klang MP Charles Santiago said it was important for the health ministry to show why Pharmaniaga’s contract should continue as public perception of the company wasn’t “favourable”.
“The ministry must help the public see why it is continuing Pharmaniaga’s contract.
“When we talk about medication, questions arise as to why drugs overseas are cheaper than in Malaysia. We need to know why,” he said to FMT.
In the “new Malaysia”, he added, it wasn’t enough for the government to say that Pharmaniaga had met its KPIs as Pakatan Harapan had expressed its commitment to accountability.
“In this respect, it’s important for the public to know, for every ringgit spent on healthcare, how much actually goes to the patient.
“They (Pharmaniaga) may have met the KPIs, but what does that mean to the people? Does it mean cheaper prices? That’s what needs to be explained.”
Santiago also urged the government to regulate the prices of drugs and come up with a road map on how it intends to achieve this.
Meanwhile, the Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy said although the ministry’s decision to allow Pharmaniaga to complete its contract was “expected and reasonable”, the practice of granting companies 10-year concessions must end.
The think tank’s CEO, Azrul Mohd Khalib, also said the matter went beyond meeting contract requirements and technical specifications.
“We need to get the best value for the money that is spent. Allowing suppliers to negotiate and bid directly with the health ministry would save millions of ringgit and make it possible for newer drugs to be made available to patients.”
He added that middlemen needed to be “cut out” as they had contributed to the increasing cost of public healthcare and made it more expensive for both the government and the people.
Azrul also voiced support for Health Minister Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad’s call for a more competitive, accountable and transparent drug procurement and supply chain framework.
Federation of Malaysian Consumer Associations CEO Paul Selvaraj meanwhile said the government must totally liberalise the medicine and food sectors.
“Any monopolies or practices with monopolistic elements must be abolished as they lead to price manipulation,” he said.
“If we opt for total liberalisation in the areas of medicine and food, we can see which suppliers offer the best prices according to the specifications.”
He said this would benefit consumers through lower prices and result in major savings for the government.