President, Malaysian Pharmacists Society
HEALTHCARE IN Malaysia, which follows the two-tier system comprising government-led and funded public healthcare and private healthcare sectors, has been deemed unsustainable.
The system cannot adapt to the evolving trends and gaps, especially when facing health crises such as the pandemic.
As we enter the endemic stage of the Covid-19 infection by living with the coronavirus, reforms are needed, and the whole system needs to be integrated into one.
President of Malaysian Pharmacists Society, Amrahi Buang, said: “The government has given priority to the healthcare sector, and as we advance, we expect GDP at 4.4 per cent on national healthcare expenditure.
“We hope there is a significant increase for the healthcare budget from the current two per cent.”
The MPS is the national association for pharmacists formed in 1967 to promote and maintain the honour and interests of the pharmacy profession in the country. It also aims to uphold and enhance the standard and ethics of the profession.
The MPS plays a critical role in furthering the development of pharmacy and pharmaceutical education and fostering intra-professional relationships among members.
It strives to improve the Science of Pharmacy for the public’s general welfare by fostering the publication of scientific and professional information relating to the practice of pharmacy and aid in the development and stimulation of discovery, invention, and research.
In this way, it also assists in improving the health services in the country
Addressing the gaps
“The most important one to be addressed is the National Healthcare Financing mechanism accessible to the whole population in Malaysia,” emphasised Amrahi.
“The way towards a National Healthcare Financing mechanism should start soon since the pandemic has exposed the gaps and equity is an issue in Sabah and Sarawak and remote areas.”
He also noted the government should focus on health literacy and health promotion as Malaysia’s moves towards an ageing population by 2030.
“Full recognition about the roles of community pharmacists in health promotion and prevention as they are the most accessible healthcare professionals in the community.
“Community pharmacies are the health hub of the communities in Malaysia.”
Pharmaceutical industry challenges
While the pharmaceutical industry has responded well to the Covid-19 pandemic with new vaccines and anti-viral medicines, Amrahi noted a concern for medicines supplies since Malaysia import more than 90 per cent.
He suggested the government should support local manufacturers to produce more locally.
When asked about the challenges ahead for the pharmaceutical industry in 2022, he replied: “Besides the pandemic and other infectious diseases, the non-communicable diseases (NCD) will also be an issue. NCD management will be a challenge now and next year.
“Concurrently, there will be an increase in demand for medicines both locally and globally.”
He added that, in the endemic stage
of the Covid-19 infections, there should also be a focus on mental health management.
Growth potential in the pharmaceutical industry
Despite the challenges, there is still potential and growth for the pharmaceutical industry and services.
“Digital technology is the focus now. Tele-pharmacy, e-pharmacy or e-commerce in pharmacy will grow.
“Value-added pharmacy services will be the new norms like medication adherence, home medication review, tele-pharmacy, e-pharmacy and medicines delivery services.”
He added that there is also growth in services for anti-smoking, weight management, mental health and stress management, and geriatric medicines.
The current Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin announced Covid-19 vaccine booster shots would start on Oct 22, 2021, focussing on populations older than 60 years old, frontliners and vulnerable groups.
It is optional and will be given free under the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme (NIP).
“Heterologous vaccination has also been started for Sinovac vaccinees after three months of Sinovac vaccine. They will be given the PfizerBioNTech vaccine. It is still under PICK and be given free,” explained Amrahi.
Regarding the number of booster shots required, whether single or multiple, it depends on clinical trials results and whether the current vaccines portfolio will address any new strain, said Amrahi.
“It can be three, six or more shots,” he said, adding that if required, like an annual flu shot, then cost is an issue. KHIRTINI K KUMARAN — The Health