Health Economics Forum 2016

The Forum brings together highly esteemed speakers and panelists from various fields of pharmacy to address the current challenges in the Malaysian healthcare industry.

Healthcare alongside education is the most basic need fundamental to the development and prosperity of societies. Affordable and sustainable healthcare or rather, a lack of it, is a problem that afflicts the global population. It is thus incumbent upon nations to draw up plans for accessible, affordable and sustainable healthcare in the most cost-effective manner, taking into account the current economic climate.

The annual Monash Health Economics Forum 2016, a two-day program organised by the School of Pharmacy, Monash Malaysia, brought together highly esteemed speakers and panelists from various fields of pharmacy, chief among them policy-makers, to address the current challenges in the Malaysian healthcare industry. Aptly titled, ‘Evidence-based Pricing and Access Schemes for New Pharmaceuticals: Future for Malaysia?’, this forum was held at the PJ Hilton, on 23 and 24 November.

Professor Helen Bartlett, President and Pro Vice-Chancellor at Monash Malaysia, in her opening remarks said: “Health Economics is an established and exciting field for our students and researchers to pursue. Pricing and access to pharmaceuticals is a critical issue in Malaysia, generating intense discussion amongst pharmacists, industry and government. An equilibrium needs to be found between national budget allocation and patient access. Through this forum, we hope to create a platform for discussion and exploration of policy and practice options that can be most effective for the future.”

A lot has been made of the impending signing of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA). The agreement has received vociferous criticism from various quarters within the country who say it could be at the expense of patients with the balance heavily tilted in favour pharmaceutical companies.

Puan Abida Haq binti Syed M. Haq Director, Pharmacy Practice and Development Division, Pharmaceutical Services Divisions, Ministry of Health (MOH) Malaysia, in her speech, moved to soothe the worries of the masses by assuring that govt agreed on TPPA after careful studying.

“When the Goods and Services Tax (GST) was introduced, we fought hard to ensure consumers were protected. Medicines are zero-rated because these are not luxury items. Similarly, we did not go into TPPA blindly. We looked at all the implications and made sure that it was something good for the country without affecting access to medicine. We always work towards protecting the consumers, the industry, and the ministry,” she said.

Professor Kenneth Lee  Professor of Pharmacy, School of Pharmacy, Monash University Malaysia explained health economics: “A lot of people only use health care spending as an indicator of how healthy a country is. However, the question should be, yes the money is spent but is it spent the right way and in the wisest manner?

“This is where health economics comes in. Health economics does not equate to health savings, you may find extra spending, but it ensures money is spent effectively  and efficiently. This is the difference between the empirical way of spending money and value-based spending,” he said.

Prof Lee also added that Malaysia is in a good stead in terms of life expectancy and infant mortality rate.

Keynote speaker Professor Michael Drummond, a Professor of Health Economics, at the Centre for Health Economics, The University of York, said that the key is for pharmaceutical companies to justify the prices they charge patients and finding a way to sort the health care system to be universally affordable.

Prof Drummond was also really impressed by how the pharmaceutical industry and the government in Malaysia are willing to work together.

“I travel alot and in some countries, pharmaceutical companies and the government may sometimes be antagonistic towards each other. I’ve been taken aback because here in Malaysia there is a willingness to discuss and debate. It’s all very diplomatic. This definitely bodes well for the future,” he said.

For more information on the Health Economics forum, please visit http://www.pharm.monash.edu.my/.