“Heightened concern over supply of essential medicine amid Pharmaniaga’s financial woes”

THE Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) has urged the Health Ministry (MOH) to take a more serious view of Pharmaniaga Bhd’s financial woes as the situation can have a major impact on the country’s public healthcare medicine supply.

If the issue is prolonged, suppliers may be left with no other option than to reduce or stop its supplies of medicines to Pharmaniaga for public health care facilities, according to MMA’s president Dr Muruga Raj Rajathurai.

“We do not wish for any supplier to do so yet nobody can stop them for they too may be running into losses if outstanding payments aren’t settled,” he pointed out in a statement. “The supply of essential medicines (medicines to treat emergency and acute cases) can be affected if such a scenario were to happen.”

Dr Muruga Raj Rajathurai

Pharmaniaga is the concession holder for the provision of medicines and medical supplies to government hospitals and clinics. Among others, it is responsible for obtaining more than a third or over 700 of the government’s branded and generic drug supply as well as for the logistics and distribution of these medicines.

Dr Muruga expects emergency cases as well as patients relying on public healthcare for a continuous supply of medicines to be among the most affected.

“The MOH may need to open up to the idea of allowing other providers for its supply and distribution of medicines to public healthcare as it has proven to be too risky to depend on a sole provider,” he suggested.

“This of course will take time to implement. In the meantime, urgent steps are needed to secure ample supply of medicines for public healthcare.”

MMA’s concern came after the Pharmaceutical Association of Malaysia (PhAMA) sounded the alarm over Pharmaniaga Bhd’s financial woes which could eventually affect patients’ access to medicines if not quickly resolved.

For one, the main association representing pharmaceutical companies in Malaysia is concerned that Pharmaniaga’s Practice Note 17 (PN17) classification for financially distressed companies had led to “uncertainty and anxiety” among medicine suppliers, according to its executive director Chan Li Jin.

Over the past three weeks, Pharmaniaga has sent letters of assurance to pharmaceutical companies, guaranteeing its operations would remain intact and that all financial obligations to stakeholders would be fulfilled.

However, some pharmaceutical companies have not received payment for medications supplied.

“In normal circumstances, supplies would be temporarily stopped until payment has been cleared,” Chan told Free Malaysia Today (FMT). “However, pharmaceutical companies are continuing to supply their medicines out of a sense of responsibility for patients’ lives and their health condition as some are life-saving medicines.”

Still, the uncertainty is unsettling, according to Chan, because of the large volumes (of medicine supply) involved, hence such situation could lead to patients waiting up to several months for their medication if the situation prolonged. – March 29, 2023

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