Pharma group urges quick decision over free meds scheme

Jamny Rosli
Noor Hisham said the suspension of PASc is awaiting the feedback from the National Audit Department. — Picture by Miera Zulyana

PETALING JAYA, Aug 17 — The Pharmaceutical Association of Malaysia (PhAMA) urged the Ministry of Health (MoH) today to decide quickly on the suspension or postponement of the Patient Access Scheme (PASc).

The groups said this would prevent disruption of treatment to patients, and the misconception that the scheme compromises integrity.

The pharmaceutical association said there were more than 10 PhAMA members offering PASc to patients in Malaysia, which has benefitted approximately 12,000 patients from 2013 to 2016.

“PhAMA members have been offering PASc to patients in need, locally and globally as this concept has been well accepted to address barriers to access for patients in need of life saving medicines without compromising integrity,” it said in a statement.

It said the MoH has engaged the pharmaceutical industry associations during the process of preparing PASc guideline to improve innovative access of treatment for patients seeking treatment in government facilities with significant savings to the government.

“However, PhAMA was not engaged before the announcement on the postponement of PASc.” it said.

On Monday, the MoH’s Pharmaceutical Services Programme website has announced the temporary suspension of the PASc that involved free provision of drugs “until further notice”.

The move will potentially affect thousands of patients suffering from cancer and rare diseases.

The ministry also sent a letter to pharmaceutical companies to inform them that it has decided to put on hold all PASc applications involving free medications for the time being, after a meeting between the ministry’s Pharmaceutical Services Programme and Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah on August 9.

Yesterday, Dr Noor Hisham said the suspension of PASc is awaiting the feedback from the National Audit Department.

He said one of the PASc schemes offered by pharmaceutical companies was not detailed enough and forced the ministry to seek advice from the Auditor-General.

“One of the PASc schemes proposed by the pharmaceutical companies involved giving out free packs/bonusing tied to medicine purchased by government facilities.

“We are concerned that the free packs could be breaching ethics and raise integrity issues as there are no detailed records on the free packs in the procurement records between pharmaceutical companies and the Health Ministry’s facilities.

“A detailed study must be conducted,” he said, adding that the matter has also been explained to the relevant stakeholders.

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