Think tank urges govt to allocate funds to finance rare disease treatment

IDEAS said currently, Malaysia’s healthcare system operates on the basis of mixed financing, whereby public healthcare is available to all citizens, and financed by the Health Ministry from general taxation. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
IDEAS said currently, Malaysia’s healthcare system operates on the basis of mixed financing, whereby public healthcare is available to all citizens, and financed by the Health Ministry from general taxation. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

KUALA LUMPUR, October 27 — To ensure sustainability of the healthcare sector, the government will need to allocate the necessary public funds as part of a broader strategy to leverage financing for the treatment of rare diseases, said the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS).

In its latest policy paper on “Next Steps for Rare Diseases in Malaysia: Improving Access to Treatments”, the think tank said fundraising by patient groups alone would not be sufficient to achieve financial sustainability.

“The government will need to consider how to allocate public finances to provide a foundation for a sustainable fund and to leverage charitable donations, particularly from the corporate sector,” it said.

IDEAS said currently, Malaysia’s healthcare system operates on the basis of mixed financing, whereby public healthcare is available to all citizens, and financed by the Health Ministry from general taxation.

“This system provides a basis for universal healthcare, but in practice, the public healthcare system is insufficient to meet the healthcare demands of the population as public healthcare expenditure only accounts for about half of all healthcare expenditure in Malaysia,” it added.

Relative to the size of the economy, public expenditure on healthcare amounted to 2.35 per cent of Malaysia’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2019, an increase of 0.09 per cent from 2018, following a manifesto commitment by the previous administration to increase healthcare spending to 4.0 per cent of GDP, said IDEAS.

It added that Malaysia should embark on efforts to improve regional collaborations, building on existing platforms including the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec). Malaysia will host the first-ever virtual Apec summit next month.

“It is an opportune time for Malaysia to develop conversations on improving collaborations for rare disease treatments at the regional level, and move towards achieving the 2025 regional collaboration targets in the Apec Rare Disease Action Plan,” it noted.

To ensure good governance, IDEAS said the government would need to decide on the objective criteria for access and prioritisation, and the relation of the trust fund to the wider healthcare system.

There will be a need for clear and transparent criteria to determine the eligibility of treatments available through the trust fund and patients’ access to those treatments, it added.

“Decision-making will need to be clear and transparent, and (it should) reduce the scope for conflict of interest. The final decision will ultimately need to rest with the Health Ministry,” it said. — Bernama

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