Tuesday April 3, 2012

More locally manufactured drugs to bring down medicine cost

THE Healthcare National Key Economic Area (NKEA) focuses on bringing both the public and private sectors into collaboration.

The 2010 Healthcare NKEA Lab resulted in six entry point projects (EPPs) and two Business Opportunities, which combined, are expected to generate RM35.3bil incremental Gross National Impact (GNI) and 181,000 new jobs by the year 2020.

Under EPP 3 of this NKEA, the industry is eyeing best-selling drugs going off-patent in the next ten years. Local pharmaceutical companies stand to gain from the substantial slash in costs when these drugs worth RM435bil lose their patents.

In July 2011, the Economic Council approved the Pharmaceutical Off-Take Agreement-Government Procurement for New Local Manufactured Pharmaceuticals.

The scheme allows the Government to procure locally manufactured products from qualified manufacturers for a set period of time. The manufacturers are required to register their products in another country before the contract to supply is extended for another set period of time. This will be a very important incentive for new pharmaceutical plants to expand or invest in producing new locally manufactured products.

On Oct 12 2011, the Health Ministry (MoH) announced the revision of compulsory service for pharmacists from three years to one, with the option to extend service for an additional year. This allows for the availability of more pharmacists in the private sector.

The Prime Minister also announced two private sector initiatives in 2011 called Project Hovid Objective Pharmaceutical Excellence (Hope) and the Biocon facility at BioXcell in Iskandar.

On Nov 2 2010, Hovid and Winthrop Pharmaceutical (M) Sdn Bhd, a subsidiary of the Sanofi Aventis Group, entered into an agreement to develop generic drugs.

Valued at approximately RM5mil for the first three years, the collaboration includes dossier development together with the manufacture and supply of pharmaceutical drugs.

The first phase of this agreement focuses on the supply of Metformin 850mg MR for the treatment of diabetes and the painkiller Tramadol 100mg SR.

In November 2011, Winthrop Pharmaceuticals extended its agreement with Hovid for the production of four new generic medicines in the areas of allergies, gastrointestinal disease, epilepsy, neuropathic pain and diabetes.

Last June, Indian pharmaceutical giant Biocon Limited announced an investment of RM500mil towards the establishment of a state-of-theart manufacturing facility at BioXcell, Iskandar.

The first Biocon factory outside India, the facility will focus on developing and manufacturing biopharmaceutical products, including recombinant proteins, human insulin and insulin analogues, as well as other sterile drug products and their delivery devices. The facility is expected to be in operation by 2014.

This year, the focus will be to review and address issues relating to pharmaceutical patent law and policy in Malaysia.

MoH will continue efforts to optimise utilisation of local bioequivalence facilities. These will include upgrading local facilities and introducing incentives to encourage local manufacturers to opt for these facilities.

Under the Healthcare Travel EPP, EPP 4, the target is to broaden Malaysia’s health customer base and increase the margin of outpatient treatments.

While the market remains small for Malaysia, there are plenty of opportunities for us to reposition ourselves as leaders in specific niches, driving a shift towards high quality and valuable experiences for healthcare tourists.

As the primary owner and driver of this EPP, the Malaysian Healthcare Travel Council (MHTC) has been focused on developing impactful marketing campaigns, with core responsibilities that include promotion and marketing, business development, capacity building and eco-system facilitation.

On the other hand, MoH and the Tourism Ministry have been responsible for concerted efforts to develop better infrastructure and improve strategic bilateral relations.

To increase the number of medical specialists, beginning March 2011, foreign spouses of medical specialists working in Malaysia are automatically issued temporary employment passes.

In October 2011, the MHTC was corporatised under Section 24 of Companies Act 1965.

In the following month, advertising guidelines were reviewed and hospitals are now allowed to publish patient testimonials in their marketing collateral.

With these efforts to boost the sector’s development, private sector investments have increased. Last year, the Prime Minister announced commitments from Sime Darby Healthcare and Kumpulan Perubatan Johor (KPJ) to build new hospitals that will cater for increasing demand of the local population and higher expectations from health travellers.

Sime Darby will open medical centres in Ara Damansara, which will house a brain centre, a heart centre and a spine and joint centre, and in Desa Parkcity, which will focus on breast oncology, child development and the treatment of chronic illnesses.

KPJ will build five different hospitals over the next three years - Dato’ Onn International Specialist Hospital in Iskandar Malaysia, Pasir Gudang Specialist Hospital in Johor, Sabah Medical Centre in Kota Kinabalu, Bandar Baru Klang Specialist Hospital in Klang and Pahang Specialist Hospital in Kuantan.

MHTC together with other agencies such as the Finance Ministry and the Malaysian Investment Development Authority is working on the drafts of investment tax incentives for qualifying local healthcare facilities registered under MHTC as health travel promoting facilities.

The incentives are to be gazetted early this year and will hopefully encourage local players to expand and upgrade their facilities to attract health travelers.

On top of this, MHTC will also develop and carry out coordinated and intensive marketing programmes in existing and new markets.

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