The Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) has called for an “open and transparent” investigation into claims regarding a fraudulent multi-billion ringgit medicine supply monopoly.
Based on a report by New Straits Times, the monopoly involved 20 companies linked to politicians with close ties to the previous Barisan Nasional (BN) government.
MMA president Dr Ravindran Naidu said in a statement on Thursday (Jun 14) that the unlawful scheme posed a threat to the lives and health of all Malaysians and jeopardised the core foundation of the country.
“The health and lives of many Malaysians may be adversely affected and at times tragic due to irreversible damage or loss of life,” he said
“It is imperative that the government medicine tendering process is made transparent and accountable, and this process should be available to all stakeholders.”
Dr Ravindran added that the offences committed by parties involved in the fraud amounted to a breach of trust as the alleged leakages had led to increases in healthcare costs, according to The Sun Daily.
He said additional medicine acquisition tender prices must be made noticeable to the public.
Furthermore, prominent people associated with the government should not have any position in the medical supply and healthcare services business as it would consequently cause a hike in medical costs and deny citizens their basic right to healthcare.
This includes the establishment and monopoly of the Foreign Workers Medical Examination Monitoring Agency and ownership of a majority of the nation’s private hospitals which were either government-associated or owned by its investment offshoots.
“This existence and involvement of government-related entities or individuals has only heightened the possibilities for conflict of interest where supply chains, laws and regulations may benefit and patronise certain parties and compromise others.”
The untimely revelation of the drug procurement monopoly was especially upsetting given Malaysia’s ongoing struggle to reduce its massive national debt and the hospital budget cuts that have taken place in recent years, said Dr Ravindran.
The Medical Practitioners Coalition Association (MPCAM) has also urged the government to publicise all medical related contracts, which include health screening for foreign workers which was restricted from access under the Official Secrets Act (OSA).
The association’s president Dr Peter Chan Teck Hock said all agreements should be reviewed since the information was never made public.
“If this allegation is true, it would surely have increased the cost of healthcare. It’s a great dereliction of duty on the part of the guardians of the sick and downtrodden in the country,” said Dr Chan.
A 12-page document was reportedly submitted to Health Minister Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad, divulging details on the 20 companies which acted as tendering agents that obtained RM3.7 billion ($929 million) worth of contracts between 2013 and 2016.
A few agents were also revealed to have carried out tendering and acted for more than 70 pharmaceutical companies.