Battling drug shortage topmost on health minister's mind

Zulkifli Sulong

Health Minister Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad says he has been focusing on the drug shortage problem since being told he would be the next health minister. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, June 9, 2018.

THE drug shortage in government hospitals and clinics is the top priority for new Health Minister Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad, who said a task force has been set up to resolve the issue.  

“The task force members are some of best in the industry and includes experts from the pharmaceutical field,” Dzulkefly told The Malaysian Insight.

“We hope the task force will solve this issue as soon as possible,” he said, adding that it would review current medicine procurement practices.

The drug shortage has been a persistent issue over the past few years and used as campaign fodder in the 14th general election.

It has affected patients, especially the disabled and the infirm, who have had to make frequent trips to government facilities to get their scheduled supplies.

For instance, monthly supplies were cut to a weekly basis.

 “We have been focusing on this issue since I was told I would be the next health minister,” said Dzulkefly, a former lecturer at Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), Kubang Kerian, Kelantan.

He said the task force would also review current medicine procurement practices, following suggestions that the ministry relook buying medicines from its main supplier, Pharmaniga.

“However, after studying the problem, we found that depending on a main supplier is sometimes better than hiring more suppliers,” he said, adding that procurement for drug supplies came under the purview of the Finance Ministry, which awards the tenders.

Pharmaniaga, the main supplier for medication at public hospitals, is a government-linked company.

Among Pharmaniaga’s shareholders are Lembaga Tabung Angkatan Tentera and Bousted. – June 9, 2018.

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