Dearest PMX, medicine prices are too high for ordinary Malaysians to bear

Letter to Editor

I STRONGLY urge Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim to look into the medicine prices in Malaysia.

Medicine is important to ensure the well-being of all Malaysians, hence if their prices are beyond the affordability of ordinary Malaysians, many will end up having to exhaust their hard-earned savings at old age.

Even as far back as 2006, a survey carried out by the then UCSI University’s School of Pharmacy lecturer Zaheer Ud-Din Babar showed that “the price of medicines in Malaysia is much higher than even in developed countries”.

What is the use of giving senior citizens special discounts on public transport services and cost of living allowances when medicine prices are still high?

Even when medicines are obtained from government hospitals, the current government must bear the cost of dispensing the medicines at subsidised prices.

At the end of the day, who is benefiting from the higher prices of medicine? Why has nothing been done since Zaheer’s research was first brought to the public’s attention?

According to Zaheer, prices of branded medicines in private retail pharmacies “could be as high as 16 times the international reference price (IRP) and 10 times for generic drugs”.

Based on the survey, which was conducted by two universities covering the four major cities, Penang, Johor Bahru, Kota Bahru, and Kuala Lumpur, the median price ratio of generic drugs is still about six times that of the IRP.”

In countries such as Sri Lanka and India, the median price ratio of generic drugs is lower than two times that of the IRP but in Malaysia, our MPR is twice that of the IRP.

With the number of cases where senior citizens have to depend on medicines for hypertension and depression, the issue of cost comes to mind as patented medicines are highly priced especially when there are no generic alternatives.

The report by Zaheer also showed that government hospitals are not spared from high medicine prices.

If further highlighted, the innovator brand fluoxetine, which is used to cure depression, has the highest median price ratio of 31.06 that of the IRP while the antibiotic ciprofloxacin, sold in retail pharmacies, has a median price ratio of 111.63 times that of the IRP.

Former Health Minister Tan Sri Dr Chua Soi Lek stated in 2006 that his ministry would regulate and monitor the prices of medicines used to treat hypertension, diabetes, and influenza.However, it is more than just these three types of medicine.

For example, the family of a girl suffering from systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) that I know of has to fork out about RM800 every month for medicine and blood tests due to her statelessness situation. Her father is only a small-time plumbing and electrical subcontractor.

Therefore, I urge the PM to once again take a serious look at the medicine prices in Madani Malaysia. – Feb 12, 2023


Stephen Ng
Kuala Lumpur

The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.

Subscribe and get top news delivered to your Inbox everyday for FREE