PUTRAJAYA - A list of price-controlled drugs may be introduced in view of the soaring medicine prices that have burdened many Malaysians.
The National Pharmaceutical Control Bureau is looking into the feasibility of such a list, especially since drugs are currently not controlled price items, said Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam.
"We are studying different models in different parts of the world and whether certain essential drugs can be subjected to the control, and the discussion is being done at the industry level," he told reporters yesterday after launching the Malaysian International Healthcare Innovation Conference and Exhibition themed Global Healthcare Challenges.
Sunday Star carried a front page report that medicine prices had risen by up to 50 per cent this year and were continuing to rise, leaving many in fear that the drugs they need might soon be out of their reach.
Dr Subramaniam said the bureau would have to study how prices could be enforced and what drugs should be listed.
Asked if high drug prices would hamper health tourism as Malaysia would need to compete with Thailand and Singapore, Dr Subramaniam said the cost of healthcare in Malaysia was lower (than in the two countries) but that was not the determining factor for foreigners as they look for overall improvement on healthcare delivery.
"We are trying to restructure the concept of health tourism to ensure that it is more sensitive to their needs," he said.
On retirees and pensioners still struggling to pay for disposables and needles despite receiving highly subsidised medical treatment, he said the ministry would like to give everyone free treatment but that would have to depend on the ability to do so.
Dr Subramaniam said the public healthcare system in Malaysia was funded by only one source - the Federal Government.
This was unlike many other countries which received funding from several sources for their healthcare system, he added.
In his speech, Dr Subramaniam said that innovation was the way to making healthcare better, accessible and affordable.