Healthcare costs not immune to ailing ringgit

PETALING JAYA - The fall of the ringgit has yet to impact the cost of healthcare, but its effect on Malay­sian households is expected to be felt in a month or so, said the Federation of Private Medical Practitioners' Associations, Malaysia.

Its president Dr Steven Chow said consumers could expect an increase of about 10 per cent on the price of medication, and based on the multiplier effect, the final increase could be even more.

"Most pharmaceutical companies carry stock levels for about three months. When this runs out, we expect the cost to rise.

"The worst hit will be those who need items like anti-cancer medication and newer biologic agents."

Unfortunately, switching to generic drugs will not help offset the costs - generic drugs are also made from imported raw materials.

A source from the local nutri­tional supplement industry said if the ringgit continued to drop, even the cost of health supplements would have to go up accordingly.

"Many active ingredients are still imported and priced in US dollars or euros. Whether your supplements are partly manufactured locally or fully imported, you'll have to factor in the difference in cost."

Any increase in price will be calculated based on a comparison between how the ringgit fared in January this year and how it is doing currently.

The source said top players in the market had yet to increase their prices for popular products such as multi-vitamins, fish oil and spe­cialised milk formulae.

"We are all now in a wait-and-see mode to see how low the ringgit will go. For now, the prices will remain the same," the source said.

In the long run, Dr Chow foresees the falling ringgit having a negative impact on hospitalisation fees, including costs for in-patient stay and surgery.

"The Government will have to increase its budget to subsidise the extra costs. Otherwise, the charges for this sector will go up as well."