Cabinet approves drug price controls

Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad says the ministry will use external reference pricing to benchmark medicine prices in Malaysia against cheaper drug prices in certain countries so that local drug prices do not exceed the benchmark. ― Picture by Mukhriz Hazim
Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad says the ministry will use external reference pricing to benchmark medicine prices in Malaysia against cheaper drug prices in certain countries so that local drug prices do not exceed the benchmark. ― Picture by Mukhriz Hazim

PUTRAJAYA, May 2 ― Dzulkefly Ahmad said the Health Ministry will work with the Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs (KPDNHEP) to regulate medicine prices.

The health minister said the Cabinet has already approved this and the two ministries will work to gazette regulations under the Price Control and Anti-Profiteering Act 2011 since price controls fall under KPDNHEP.

“I know the private sector may not be very comfortable with this but we are forced to take a solution that fits all. We cannot be selective.

“If private is too expensive, our public hospitals will be congested. Give a breather for people to go private,” Dzulkefly told a press conference last Tuesday in conjunction with Pakatan Harapan’s (PH) first year in office.

The Health Ministry has yet to decide when the drug price control regulations will be gazetted as it wants to go for another round of consultations with the pharmaceutical industry to discuss the price control mechanism.

Dzulkefly said the ministry will use external reference pricing to benchmark medicine prices in Malaysia against cheaper drug prices in certain countries so that local drug prices do not exceed the benchmark. The countries that will be referenced have yet to be decided.

The ceiling price will be derived from the average of the three lowest prices which will then be imposed at two points: the wholesale stage and retail level at clinics, pharmacies, and hospitals. 

“So they cannot charge more than that,” Dzulkefly said.

Medicines, however, are just one part of the various goods and services offered by private hospitals that do not publish the prices of various procedures.

Dzulkefly added that the domestic trade and consumer affairs minister would be given the power under the Price Control and Anti-Profiteering Act to appoint Health Ministry officers to enforce price controls of medicine.

“Medicine price controls will be done in phases,” Dzulkefly said.

“The objective of medicine price controls is to ensure access to medicine at appropriate prices for the people, besides encouraging innovation and healthy competition for industry growth.”

Dzulkefly said drug price controls would expand access to expensive new medicines.

Malay Mail previously reported about the lack of new cancer drugs like targeted therapy at public hospitals.