Malaysia’s pharmacies: Govt should have set ceiling price for Covid-19 self-test kits from Day 1

Gmate Covid-19 rapid antigen self-test kits are pictured at a pharmacy in Subang Jaya July 28, 2021. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Gmate Covid-19 rapid antigen self-test kits are pictured at a pharmacy in Subang Jaya July 28, 2021. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 4 — The Malaysian Pharmacists Society (MPS) insisted today that they never rejected the ceiling price for the Covid-19 self-test kits announced by the government this week but merely said it should have been done from day one.

MPS president Amrahi Buang said MPS merely voiced out the lack of planning in providing rebates to community pharmacists who have stocked up with Covid-19 self-test kits with the previous cost price of between RM22 to RM35 due to the absence of a grace period.

“The current negative perception on community pharmacists from the public would not have arisen if the government set the ceiling price from Day 1.

“The public is of the mind that pharmacists profiteered from the previous retail selling price as the previous wholesale price was not clearly stated by the relevant ministries,” he said in a statement today.

Amrahi said MPS last night had their own townhall with members of parliament (MPs), members of the press and also 650 pharmacies including community pharmacists after the ceiling price was announced without any prior notice.

The main concern that was raised by the pharmacies is stock clearance since not all suppliers had agreed to give rebates and even asked for cash payments upfront before supplying the stock.

He asked the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs ministry (KPDNHEP) to mandate rebates to them as only five out of 15 principal suppliers had agreed to provide rebates.

“KPDNHEP must mandate a rebate as it has been established that the previous cost price given by suppliers can be further reduced.

“The prices of the self-test kits also must be adjusted accordingly in Sabah, Sarawak and Labuan. All delivery charges to East Malaysia must be waived by either the supplier or the government and not pass the cost to the community pharmacy,” he said.

The wholesale price for the kits was fixed at RM16 a unit and the retail price at RM19.90 a unit. The prices, set under the Price Control and Anti-Profiteering Act 2011 and Control of Supplies Act 1961, will take effect from tomorrow.

Yesterday, KPDNHEP minister Datuk Seri Alexander Nanta Linggi criticised MPS and said the decision to put the ceiling price was not done in a rush and was aimed at ensuring that the self-test kits were affordable for the public.

In a separate press conference, Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said the decision was done and no extended grace period was given as there was a need to have a balance between the suppliers, retailers and the public on the sale of self-test kits.

Khairy said they will not give the pharmacists time to clear their stocks as they are siding with the consumers who demanded the price to go down.

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