KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 2 — Pharmacies in Malaysia should be given subsidies or be allowed to return existing stock of Covid-19 self-test kits as the government’s new retail price limit of RM19.90 that will kick in three days’ time is too sudden, the Malaysian Pharmacists Society (MPS) said today.
MPS president Amrahi Buang said pharmacists were in support of price controls for Covid-19 self-test kits, with the MPS having itself voiced such support thrice, namely with an August 6 letter to Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs (KPDNHEP) Minister Datuk Seri Alexander Nanta Linggi, in an August 18 meeting with KPDNHEP and in an August 19 press statement.
Amrahi said that MPS had on these three occasions highlighted the need to make Covid-19 self-test kits with the condition that community pharmacists are “treated fairly”.
Amrahi said the August 18 meeting with KPDNHEP was also attended by the Malaysian Medical Association and 19 big chain community pharmacies, but said the actual ceiling price was not discussed with the industry stakeholders.
Following the KPDNHEP’s announcement today of the retail price limit of RM19.90 on Covid-19 self-test kits that will take effect on September 5, Amrahi pointed out that the current cost price for such items range from RM22 to RM32, which he said is “way above” the RM19.90 price.
“As such it would be best if the minister, Alexander Nanta Linggi subsidises the self-test kits cost for community pharmacies. Alternatively, he should also call upon the suppliers to provide rebates for pharmacies,” Amrahi said.
Amrahi pointed out that the logistic costs for Covid-19 self-test kits to be sent to Sabah, Sarawak and Labuan remain high, and said the KPDNHEP minister should be aware of such costs as he too is a Sarawakian.
Amrahi indicated that pharmacies would not be able to sell off their existing stocks that were bought at a higher cost price, before the new retail price of RM19.90 kicks in this Sunday.
“Given the sudden announcement by the ministry, it is impossible for pharmacies to clear their stocks using the old prices.
“Why wasn’t a grace period given to industry players? Community pharmacies are frontliners in battling the Covid-19 pandemic. They have continuously opened their outlets to serve the public, not to incur further losses.
“That is why, in the absence of a grace period (which is too late to implement), the KPDNHEP must allow pharmacies to return stock that was purchased at higher prices or get the suppliers to subsidise the cost,” he said.
“The announcement by KPDNHEP today is reminiscent of its announcement made over the price controls for face masks. It has been done haphazardly without planning and in the absence of due notice to stakeholders,” he added.
Amrahi also urged the KPDNHEP’s enforcement arm not to “victimise community pharmacists by conducting unnecessary raids”, asking it to instead focus on reducing illegal online sales of Covid-19 test kits which goes against the Health Ministry’s policies.
“It is also high time that the enforcement arm also conducts spot checks on non-community pharmacies and private healthcare facilities such as the D-I-Y stores and roadside shops that sell self-test kits and other medical-related products,” he said.
He added that the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) should also play a proactive role in curbing the online sales of Covid-19 self-test kits by “unscrupulous parties”.
Earlier today, the KPDNHEP minister and Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin made the announcement on KPDNHEP’s price controls from September 5 onwards that would make RM16 and RM19.90 respectively as the maximum wholesale price and maximum retail price for Covid-19 self-test kits.
“The ceiling wholesale and retail pricing of Covid-19 antigen rapid test kits (self-testing) is made according to the appropriateness and suitability for more effective enforcement to ensure reasonable prices and availability of supplies in the market for the benefit of consumers and traders,” the two ministers’ joint statement had said.
The KPDNHEP said it had fixed these two maximum prices based on information regarding prices from three sources, namely the monitoring of prices at all premises and pharmacies nationwide, feedback from government agencies such as the Health Ministry’s Medical Devices Authority and the Royal Malaysian Customs Department, as well as discussions with manufacturers, importers, retailers and pharmacy associations.