Weakened ringgit will have bigger impact on drug prices

PETALING JAYA: Drug prices are more likely to increase from the weak ringgit than the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), according to the Malaysian Organisation of Pharmaceutical Industries (Mopi).

"The overall impact on the price of medicines is more heavily affected by the movement of our forex (foreign exchange) and the current economic challenges that we are facing now," said the organisation's president Diong Sing Peng.

He added that the impact of the TPPA was "not as big as we expected" for the local pharmaceutical industry.

Mopi represents all the major pharmaceutical companies, which produce generic and biosimilar medicines locally.

Diong said the only way that prices for new drugs could stay high for a longer period of time would be because of patent extension.

"But that would only happen if the authorities themselves fail the Malaysian public," he said.

He was referring to the clause in the TPPA that allows for extension of the 20-year patent period if there is an unreasonable delay of the application process.

This is defined in the agreement as five years from the point of application or three years after a request for examination of application, whichever is later.

The Intellectual Property Corporation of Malaysia's client charter for granting of patents is 26 months for ordinary submissions.

In addition, a clause in the TPPA states that application to market new medicines in Malaysia must be filed within 18 months of the first application to market the drug anywhere in the world.

"This should also safeguard against any kind of attempt at "evergreening" by patent holders," said Mopi executive director Keh Song Hock.

Evergreening refers to the practice of extending monopoly over certain products through various tactics, including filing for new patents when the original one is about to expire.