KOTA KINABALU: The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) must investigate immediately a report alleging that the price of medical supplies in the country is being manipulated by monopoly pharmaceutical companies.
State Health and People’s Wellbeing Minister, Stephen Wong said Sabah has been badly affected by high price of medical drugs, a situation that has made it difficult for patients to obtain their medicines.
“We don’t want medical supplies in the country to become so expensive. We hope the MACC will take immediate action,” he said when met after officiating at the Sabah World Pharmacists Day celebration at Suria Mall here today.
In this respect, he said his Ministry and federal counterparts would be assisting to resolve the problems as he did not want to see the people’s healthcare quality to drop.
Stephen was commenting on the shocking discovery that the monopoly of medical supplies price have resulted in the price of medicines in the country to be higher between 30 per cent to 148 per cent higher than in other countries.
This was among the claims in a 150-page report submitted by Klang MP Charles Santiago to the anti-graft body in June this year that also implicated former ministers, elected representatives, senior civil servants in the Health Ministry.
Santiago claimed that 20 companies linked to leaders from the previous government are alleged to have been tendering agents between the ministry and pharmaceutical companies.
“Out of these 20 companies, three are family-owned companies that control 75 per cent of the country’s pharmaceutical business,” Santiago claimed.
He also alleged that these agents had received contracts worth RM3.7bil between 2013 and 2016.
“These companies were also tendering agents for medical supplies and equipment,” he said.
He said the amount stipulated only covered the deals with the Health Ministry, while the amount was much higher as these companies also supplied to the Defence and Education ministries.
Due to the high commissions involved, he said the prices of medication jumped up and had resulted in shortage of drugs in public healthcare facilities since the government cannot afford to buy them.
Meanwhile, Stephen said the pharmaceutical players in Sabah will have to work hard to reduce the huge gap of pharmacist to population ratio, which currently is at 1 to 4,000 compared to the national ratio of 1 to 2,000 population.
“This is 100 per cent lower, so I think Sabah needs to work harder to increase the number of pharmacists,” he said, adding that he was heartened to note that pharmacists were working closely with doctors to provide the best healthcare service to the people.
Stephen also commended the Pharmacy Service Division of the State Health Department and Sabah Pharmaceutical Society for coming up with various programmes for the celebration this year among them Medication Safety Campaign and the appreciation ceremony of the “Know Your Medicine Ambassadors.”
Later, Stephen accompanied by State Health Director Datuk Dr Christina Rundi, Health Deputy Director (Pharmacy) Mohd Zamri Baharudin and the joint-organising chairperson, Victor Lim and Hiew Chui Li presented the certificate of appreciations to the ‘ambassadors’.-SabahNewsToday