PETALING JAYA, Aug 13 — The Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) is anxious over the impact of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) on healthcare services in Malaysia.
MMA president Datuk Dr N.K.S. Tharmaseelan (picture) said an agreement could see the potential increase in the cost of medicines and healthcare services.
“Many countries now use generic drugs to treat diseases as effectively as patent drugs. This has brought down the cost of medication and health care,” said Dr Tharmaseelan.
“But with the TPPA, intellectual property provisions could be an issue as the production and importation of generic drugs will be deemed illegal until a certain period.”
He added the liberalisation of the healthcare service sector would also send “costs of healthcare spiralling upwards”.
“Managed care organisations (MCO) and health maintenance organisations (HMO) are third parties who act as intermediaries between doctors, patients and hospitals. The rising number of complaints cannot be acted upon due to the lack of appropriate Acts to regulate these third party administrators in Malaysia.
“TPPA partners, led by the US, are lobbying for 100 per cent liberalisation of these services. The demand will be for all trade partners to be allowed the same facilities permitted to Malaysian companies to conduct their business.
“US’s MCOs and HMOs will then be allowed to set up branches or even chains here. There will be no restriction on the volume of business permitted for the foreign service providers. They will function freely and will certainly influence the way healthcare is delivered.”
MMA claims there will also be a hike in the cost of educational and research activities.
“Copyright and intellectual property rights will be made stringent. The current copyright laws are proposed to be extended from 50 years to 120 years. This will make accessibility to educational material limited due to prohibitive prices of books and references.
“The medical profession views this intrusion of the TPPA into the daily lives of Malaysians with anxiety and hopes the government will allay fears of Malaysians by involving and seeking the opinion of all stakeholders on the negotiations held thus far. This is to gather the consensus and views of Malaysians before the final ink is signed.”
The TPPA, a comprehensive trade agreement to liberalise trade and economies of the Asia-Pacific region, was initiated and signed in 2005 by four countries — Brunei, Singapore, Chile and New Zealand. It now encompasses 12 countries.
Malaysia is still in the midst of negotiating its commitment to the agreement.
The International Trade and Industry Ministry had, in a statement as reported by Bernama, said the extent of market opening in government procurement was guided by local stakeholder interests and concerns.
The ministry added Malaysia would continue to negotiate an outcome which would allow Malaysians affordable access to medicine and healthcare.
The 19th round of TPP negotiations will be held in Brunei from August 22-30.