New iPharmacy business model in Australia offers prescription drugs at cost prices.



"When a patient comes to us for help, money is the last thing on our minds,” is how sydneydrugs.com, a new online subscription pharmacy service which launched this week, sells itself to consumers.

The members-only service provides prescription medications at cost price in exchange for an annual subscription fee of $99, $199 or $449 a month, depending on how many extras you want.
“We’re a platform that gives Australians an opportunity to purchase pharmacy items without paying a profit margin to the pharmacy. We are all about making medications affordable,” the site promises.
Customers scan a copy of their prescription or send it in the post, order their drugs online and later receive them in the mail. Any questions they have about the medication are answered within 24 hours.
The website is the brain child of Sydney pharmacists Lindsey Clark and Sunit Ruparelia, who are both registered with industry regulator Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency.
Frustrated with the inflated and unpredictable cost of medications, the duo are undercutting local pharmacies and discount retailers like Chemist Warehouse.
“We don’t have overheads like your regular pharmacies do,” Mr Clark told news.com.au.
“Before Sunit became a pharmacist he was diagnosed with high cholesterol and he was sourcing his medication from overseas because of the prices here,” Mr Clark said.
“Working in pharmacies, we see that the prices vary so hugely depending on where you’re located. People in rural towns with only one pharmacy are having to pay so much, while in urban areas the prices are quite competitive.
Mr Clark cited an example of a woman living in a country town currently paying $25 for her medication. “She’s in a town with one pharmacy, so she has to pay it. But we can sell it to her for $4,” he said.
“We’re just offering an option for those people. There’s a lot of struggling families out there.”
Mr Clark says the premises where the drugs are stocked is regularly inspected by the Pharmacy Council of Australia.
But the main industry body is wary about the website. A Pharmacy Guild of Australia spokesman said patients should be “cautious” about a pharmacy model that sidesteps the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, including its safety net provisions.
“While online pharmacy and prescription services may have some benefit for patients in very remote locations, generally Australians are better served by the network of 5600 local pharmacies distributed all over Australia, dispensing subsidised PBS medicines with a Government safety net,” the spokesman said.
“It seems from the list of medicines on the website that many of the more expensive PBS medicines would not be available under the proposed subscription system, so consumers are advised to be cautious.”
/ news.com.au 25-11-2016

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Halal Pharmaceuticals: New Growth Sector



Malaysia is in the forefront of the global halal Pharmaceutical Industry.  
The certification body, the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia, better known in its official Malay name JAKIM, published the world’s first halal pharmaceuticals standard ie "ISO MS2424: 2012" Halal Pharmaceuticals General Guidelines.
Chemical Company of Malaysia Berhad (CCM) was the first to venture into the halal sector about 17 years ago, from vitamins and health supplements to over-the-counter (OTC) medicines such as painkillers, analgesics, eye drops, cough mixtures, ointments and creams.
In the past three years, the number of halal pharmaceutical players, excluding traditional medicines and cosmetics manufacturers, has significantly increased.
“When we got halal certification in 2013, we were the first, and we now see 20 to 30 companies out of around 70 pharma manufacturers in the country, so the sector has grown quite well,” Leonard Ariff, Group Managing Director of CCM Berhad.
Leonard estimated the overall pharmaceutical sector to be growing by 10 to 12% per year, while CCM’s exports are growing at close to 15%.
Demand is driven at the domestic level by the country’s 31.7 million people, around 60 percent of whom are Muslim, although uptake of halal pharmaceuticals is still low overall.
“What sells the most in the halal segment, at 35 percent of the market, is food and beverage, then ingredients, and pharmaceuticals is 1%. Acceptance is still low at the moment,” said Dr Tabassum Khan, Managing Director of AJ Pharma Holding and Chairman of AJ Biologics, an initiative of the Aljomaih Group of Saudi Arabia, which has facility in Malaysia.  
Malaysia is pushing exports of pharmaceuticals which, according to the Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (MATRADE), valued at MYR 1.31 bil  (USD 317 mil) in 2015, an increase of 15.8% over 2014.
Exact export figures for halal pharmaceuticals are not readily available, but Malaysia’s Halal Industry Development Corporation (HDC) estimates that the top export markets are the United States and Singapore at around $24.2 mil each, and Nigeria, Hong Kong, and China with around $726,521 each in 2014.
Holding back exports is the lack of mutual recognition of halal certification by regulatory bodies around the world, few of which have the same standards as JAKIM, especially in pharmaceuticals.
At the domestic level there is a general lack of raw materials for the industry, despite the country’s biodiversity, which could be tapped into to develop resource-based biogeneric drugs. 
What is needed for the sector to develop further is greater synergy and economy of scale, such as through halal pharma hubs, bigger market players, and for the global pharmaceutical sector to be more geared towards halal ingredients, which is gradually happening, with global ingredients suppliers like DSM and BASF certifying halal lines.
Currently, in Malaysia, prescription medicines are not allowed to carry halal logos on packaging, but halal references in promotional materials are allowed. Labeling of gelatin is compulsory, to ensure its source of origin is clear.
“One of the factors Malaysia is grappling with is prescription products, since the government is being cautious to avoid patients refusing life saving medication purely because they are unsure of its halal status. This involves a holistic approach to educate stakeholders, and how quickly halal pharma companies develop halal products,” said Leonard.
CCM is moving into larger molecule products such as biologics, and has invested in a South Korean company to push such development.
AJ Biologics is also pushing R&D, recently acquiring Denmark’s Statens Serum Institut (SSI) vaccine production business to develop halal vaccines for EV71 (against Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease) and MCV4 (meningococcal meningitis).
“The biggest motivation for acquisition is to have access to the global vaccine market and to have upstream manufacturing capabilities for our project in Malaysia. The other motivation is to have access to a polio vaccine. Developing an animal source-free polio vaccine would be a major contribution to the Islamic world,” said Dr Khan.
AJ Biologics is expected to start commercial operations in the first quarter of 2018, targeting the Middle East and East Asian markets. “The MCV4 will be the first ever halal certified meningococcal vaccine for all the pilgrims traveling to Saudi Arabia,” added Dr Khan.
/Global Islamic Economic Gateway Oct 2016

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Malaysia Public Hospitals - Increase in Ward Charges in 2017



The Health Ministry will increase its charges for first class and second class wards starting next year, said Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam.
 
According to Dr Subramaniam, of the total two million inpatients, 32,000 patients were in the first and second class wards.


Upon hospitalisation, patients are initially placed in third class wards and if they do not request to be moved into the upper classes, they will not be charged any extra fee.

The increase in charges for first and second class wards at public hospitals will not burden patients, said its Director General, Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah. This was because those who asked to be warded there could either afford it or have insurance or guarantee letters from their employers.

“Presently, the charges for first class ward are very low and this is without the cost involved during treatment. For example, the current charge for first class ward is between RM 30 and RM 80 a day compared to private hospitals which charge between RM 100 and RM 400 a day,” he said.

Other charges, he added, such as laboratory tests, checks and operations for those admitted in the first class ward at public hospitals were also much lower compared to private hospitals.

Noor Hisham gave the example of maternity treatment, which would only cost RM 300 at a first class ward in public hospitals compared to RM 3,000 in private hospitals.

If the maternity treatment invol­ved the use of forceps, vacuum or breech procedures and caesarean operation, he said this would only cost between RM 400 and RM 800. The same treatment at private hospitals would cost between RM 4,000 and RM 15,000.

The Government also exempted senior citizens from outpatient charges and gave a 50% charge reduction if they were warded, adding up to a maximum payment of only RM 250, he said.

Others, such as those with disabilities, financial aid recipients, students, organ and blood donors were also given exemptions, said Noor Hisham.

Beds for first and second class wards, he said, were also limited, with only 2,271 beds for first class and 3,251 beds for second class out of the total 40,748 beds in public hospitals.

“As such, those who choose first class are those who can afford it. The increase in charges for first and second class wards is very minimal,” he said.

The maximum charge for patients admitted in third class was only RM 500, pointed out Noor Hisham.

“Those who cannot afford to pay may also be given exemption,” he said.

/theSTAR 16-11-2016


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Government Annual Medicine Purchase: Budget



The Malaysian Health Ministry spends more than RM2 bil to treat over two million patients a year.

Deputy Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Hilmi Yahaya said the Ministry is gradually relying more on generic drugs in a move to reduce the amount spent on medical costs.

"At present, the ratio of medicine dispensed is 60% generic drugs and 40% innovator brands. Last year, the ministry spent RM2.2 bil on medicine while RM1.9 bil was spent on medicine as of October this year," he said.

He added that 30% of generic drugs were sourced locally while 70% were imported.

"To ensure that the generic drugs are of quality, a bio-equivalent test is done to determine if their content are the same as those of the original drugs," he said.

He added that the Ministry had recently introduced new guidelines to control the dispensing of medicine to prevent wastage.

He cited an example where previously, a chronic disease patient would be given six month's worth of medicine after each check up but came back for more after three months.


Dr Hilmi also denied that the ministry was facing budget cuts, saying that RM2bil was allocated under Budget 2017.

/theSTAR 16-11-2016

Disclaimer: Views or opinions expressed are solely those of the Author and should be used with discretion. The Author shall not be held liable for any acts or omissions arising from the use of the information. The user will be personally liable for any damages or other liability arising hereof.

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