MOH committed to keeping medicines affordable

Mr Lim Chee Chuan ("Drug subsidy puzzle"; May 30) asked about subsidies for the cancer drug Gefitinib (brand name Iressa).

Iressa is a non-standard drug and hence not subsidised at both the National University Hospital and National Cancer Centre Singapore.

Different institutions may have different pricing as their costs may differ.

We agree with Mr Lim on the benefits of bulk purchasing, and Iressa has been centrally purchased through the public health-care clusters' Group Procurement Office since 2009.

Unfortunately, the sole supplier of Iressa in Singapore did not participate in the bulk purchasing effort last year, resulting in the hospitals having to purchase the drug individually.

We will continue to explore the possibility of bulk purchasing of Iressa and other drugs.

We would like to clarify that the Ministry of Health (MOH) absorbs the Goods and Services Tax for treatment received by all subsidised patients, such as Mr Lim's mother.

The MOH is committed to keeping drug costs affordable, through bulk purchasing of drugs, subsidies and financial assistance.

Patients with financial difficulties can approach the medical social workers to apply for the Medication Assistance Fund to help defray the cost of unsubsidised drugs, such as Iressa.

Karen Au Yong (Ms)

Deputy Director

Corporate Communications

Ministry of Health