Pharmaniaga review still inconclusive, says health minister

AFP pic.

PETALING JAYA: Health Minister Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad says the government-appointed task force is still looking into the ministry’s procurement of drugs and health services including the concession with drug maker Pharmaniaga.

He said the review by the task force, established in June, was still inconclusive although the ministry hoped to publish the report by the end of the year.

“We hope to formulate better supply-chain optimisation where we will be able to achieve value for money,” he said, adding that the review was to ensure fairness to all players in the sector.

He said the health ministry was also reviewing procurement in other aspects of health services as well.

In his speech at the National Regulatory Council Conference here today, he said Malaysia’s total health expenditure increased by RM45 billion from 1997 to 2015, with total expenditure as a percentage of GDP at 4.55%.

In June, think tank Galen Centre for Health and Public Policy urged the ministry to review Pharmaniaga’s 10-year concession to purchase, store, supply and distribute approved drugs to government hospitals, clinics and district health offices nationwide, saying the government-linked company was acting as a middleman.

The health minister then promised to set up a task force to study the ministry’s procurement practices.

He also dismissed concerns of Pharmaniaga’s monopoly in the health sector, saying that in 2017, only 33.4% or RM1.1 billion of the ministry’s RM3.3 billion expenditure on medication and consumable items was from the concessionaire company. The other 66.6% or RM2.2 billion, he said, was from purchases by health facilities such as hospitals and clinics through central contracts or quotations.

In August, it was reported that Deputy Health Minister Dr Lee Boon Chye said Pharmaniaga’s contract would continue as it had been complying with contract requirements and technical specifications.

Subsequently, Klang MP Charles Santiago urged the health ministry to reveal the key performance indicators of Pharmaniaga, arguing that the Malaysian public should know why drugs overseas are cheaper than drugs in Malaysia.