Drug shortage hits private hospitals, rare flu and pediatric drugs

KUALA LUMPUR, June 4 – Private hospitals have sounded the alarm over insufficient supplies of medicines, especially influenza and children’s medicines, as shortages spread through Malaysia’s healthcare system .

The Association of Private Hospitals Malaysia (APHM) said most private hospitals are currently managing drug shortages by using generic alternatives to the usual brands that are prescribed.

Some private hospitals also reported a low supply of pediatric drugs due to increased demand amid rising infections as schools reopened and daily activities resumed. Thus, private hospitals have increased their orders for pediatric drugs.

“Private hospitals want to provide reassurance about the availability of medicines for critical illnesses and life-threatening conditions,” APHM President Dr. Kuljit Singh said in a statement today.

Dr Kuljit also said code blue that cardiovascular and anticancer drugs in private hospitals are currently sufficient and that most other drugs are still available compared to flu-related treatments.

“When needed in emergency conditions, the private hospitals work very seamlessly between hospitals to help each other to treat patients with the appropriate drugs without any hassle or difficulty,” he added.

According to APHM, private hospitals typically project and prepare their drug stocks based on seasonal trends, such as higher orders during school days to account for possible increases in upper respiratory tract infections.

“Ordering and stocking of medicines will be done accordingly, without waste or oversupply of the hospital pharmacy, as all medicines have a shelf life and unsold medicines will lead to financial loss.”

Dr Kuljit attributed the current shortage of flu medicine in private hospitals to the Covid-19 pandemic and the current hand-foot-mouth disease (HFMD) outbreaks in the country.

Suppliers, he said, attributed the shortages to a lack of raw materials needed for finished pharmaceuticals, the war in Ukraine and recent shutdowns in China. China only last weekend lifted a two-month unconditional lockdown in its biggest city, Shanghai, which has the world busiest container port.

“But we believe this is very temporary and the situation will improve in a few weeks,” Dr Kuljit said.

“We have stock, but we don’t know what will happen when the stock runs out. Will the suppliers have enough to restock us? ” he said Code blue. “Maybe by then there will be enough stocks because it’s temporary.”

Private general practitioner (GP) clinics have complained over a shortage of medicines like antibiotics and over-the-counter medicines for fever, flu, cough and cold, including cough and flu syrups for children.

The Malaysian Association of Pharmaceutical Suppliers (MAPS), which represents local pharmaceutical importers, has blamed the drug shortages on disruptions in the global supply of finished pharmaceutical products and components needed to produce drugs (active pharmaceutical ingredients [APIs], and pharmaceutical intermediates and excipients) – all of which are wholly imported by Malaysia. China is the world’s largest supplier of APIs and pharmaceutical intermediates.

These disruptions were triggered by China’s recent shutdowns, the Russian-Ukrainian war and prolonged global lockdowns over the past two years of the pandemic that have affected global shipping and logistics, combined with growing global demand during of the reopening of countries this year.

Although APHM called the drug shortages “very temporary”, MAPS believes the shortages will worsen and spread across all therapeutic areas. Suppliers have also told GPs to prepare for the drug shortage to last until September or the end of the year.

The Ministry of Health said yesterday that no class of drugs was yet out of stock, due to generic availability, adding that it would continue to monitor the situation.

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