Ministry health

As shortage hits cancer drugs, health ministry urged to weigh local production and reuse policy

Medicines are displayed in crates behind a pharmacy counter in Kuala Lumpur in this July 2018 file photo. — Photo by Hari Anggara

By Rex Tan

Thursday, June 23, 2022 10:35 AM MYT

KUALA LUMPUR, June 23 – National Cancer Society Malaysia (NCSM) Director Dr Murallitharan Munisamy has said that the current drug shortage is affecting cancer treatment in the country, urging the government to be proactive and consider manufacture essential drugs locally.

He said drugs for the treatment of cancer were among those hit by drug shortages in the country, but suggested the low availability was artificial and not due to an actual lack of supply.

According to a report on The Malaysian Insight, Dr Murallitharan said the falling value of the ringgit has made it more expensive for suppliers to import medicines.

“The pharmaceutical companies would have bid to the government at a certain price, but because the bid price and the current price may be different due to the fluctuation of the ringgit against the US dollar. So some companies might be at a loss here.

“Therefore, pharmaceutical companies will resort to reasons such as no stock, inability to import drugs and others, but in fact they are waiting for the fluctuation to subside,” he said. .

The doctor said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has also affected global trade and logistics, which have yet to fully recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Malaysia also needed to be more responsive to the issue, as shutdowns in China and India, which were major producers of drugs and active ingredients, meant the problem was likely to persist, he added.

“We know that hospitals are affected, in terms of the money distributed. So when there is a budget cut, it will always affect non-communicable diseases such as cancer because cancer treatment is expensive,” he added.

However, Dr Murallitharan argued that cutting funds was a short-sighted and short-lived solution to a lingering problem, and said the Department of Health should pursue local drug production as a more permanent solution.

Malaysia should have already learned the importance of self-sufficiency from the Covid-19 pandemic when the world “held us hostage for Covid-19 vaccines”, he added.

“The biggest purchaser of drugs is the Ministry of Health. If our country can produce its own medicine, then we can save a lot and not depend on others,” he said.

In the immediate term, he suggested that the ministry consider a policy of recycling returned but unexpired drugs.

There have been cases where families have brought back boxes of medicine from cancer patients who did not survive, but these must have been wasted as there was no policy to put them back into the supply system. , he explained.

“A lot of drugs are wasted because there is no reuse policy or patient education to return unused drugs,” he added.