Malaysia - Medicine by Post to Boost Healthcare Expenditure

29 Apr 2011 • by Natalie Aster

BMI View: Malaysia's new patient-centric service of sending medicine by post is an innovative approach by the government to provide healthcare directly to consumers at their homes. The key concerns include the potential loss of pharmaceuticals during delivery. However, if carefully planned and executed, this programme could boost public expenditure on healthcare.

Malaysia has introduced a new service of sending prescribed medicines by post. This service is catered to patients who need to consume pharmaceuticals on a continuous basis. This that registered patients do not have to wait at hospitals, clinics or pharmacies. Healthcare providers will also be able to give more attention to patients who require more immediate medical care. This is important considering that there is a chronic shortage of doctors in Malaysia. According to the deputy health minister in Malaysia, the doctor-patient ratio was 1:940 in 2009, lower than the 1:600 standard set by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The idea of medicine by post is not new. In countries such as the US and Australia, there are several online portals that allow customers to purchase prescribed medicines online. One such example is drugstore.com, which serves customers internationally. According to the website's financial reports, it saw a net profit increase of 24% to US$456.5mm at the end of fiscal year 2010.

BMI's Information and Communication Technology (ICT) team projects that the number of internet users in Malaysia will rise to 59% of the population by end 2011. This equates to 2.5 times more than the region's average number of internet users, suggesting an attractive market for this new venture. However, this service will limit patient-pharmacist interaction, which is equally important in terms of follow-up patient care.

The service may thus discount the role that pharmacists play in healthcare. In addition, the quality of the medicines can get compromised during the duration of delivery. This is especially for patients living in Sabah and Sarawak. Despite reassurance from Pos Malaysia, there is still a possibility of parcels being intercepted or stolen before they reach the patients. The Malaysian Pharmaceutical Society's proposal to involve local pharmacies in this program can therefore boost confidence in this service.

If carefully planned, the service will boost public expenditure on pharmaceutical products, primarily due to the patient's ease of obtaining the medicine. This could potentially provide upside risk to our core forecasts for the country. At present, we expect Malaysia's pharmaceutical market to grow by 6.93% on average per annum through to 2015.

BMI's pharmaceuticals reports feature independent 5-year forecasts for drug and health expenditure, imports and exports, focusing on the growth outlook for the prescription, OTC, patented drugs and generics market segments. The regulatory and reimbursements regime, intellectual property rights issues, epidemology, the long-term disease burden and domestic R&D are analysed, as well as the biotech and medical devices sectors. The reports also feature profiles of leading pharmaceuticals companies, covering SWOT analysis, product portfolio, latest financials and key developments.

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