|The price of health care can be lower
An article from the Malaysian Pharmaceutical Society’s website
THE economic downturn has had an impact on almost all major sectors in the country, and healthcare is no exception.
An important component in healthcare cost is for medications; and previous studies in Malaysia have shown that medications are highly priced.
At present, there is no price regulation on medicines and manufacturers and retailers are free to set their own. Overcharging for medicines, especially by private hospitals, is also becoming the norm.
One solution to overcome this is to ask the physician or the pharmacist to dispense cheaper generic medicines. In most countries, including Malaysia, governments are relying more on generics to save on healthcare costs.
A recent study by a group at USM and published in the December 2008 edition of Journal of Generic Medicines showed that the use of generics could save patients up to 90% of their total medication costs.
In Malaysia, it does not matter whether a medicine is branded or generic.
A tight registration process ensures that medicines undergo thorough stringent testing on safety and efficacy before they can be marketed.
However, one problem in Malaysia is the lack of awareness of generic medicines and the negative perceptions towards it not only from consumers but also from prescribers and even dispensers.
Most consumers, and to a certain extent, some prescribers, think that generic medicines are of low quality, or equate these with counterfeit medicines, which is totally baseless.
The Malaysian National Medicine Policy developed by the Health Ministry strongly advocates the use of generics, but it seems that most of the prescribers are not well aware of the existence of such a policy.
Consumers need to be well informed about the availability of generic medicines, and it is the role of healthcare professionals and the government agencies to promote the use of generics among Malaysian consumers and healthcare providers.
I call on the Health Ministry to work with manufacturers and importers of pharmaceuticals to come up with a formula or list of recommended selling prices for all registered pharmaceutical products so that consumers can check whether they are being overcharged for their medications by their healthcare providers.
As for consumers, do ask for itemised billing every time you visit a healthcare provider as you have the right to know what you have been charged for.
DR MOHAMED AZMI AHMAD HASSALI,
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