Malaysians are being bombarded with political news (read: mudslinging) on a daily basis, especially since the general elections is just around the corner. Sometimes meaningful news could be lost in the mix. These are news that warrant public attention but is not “juicy” enough to make the headlines. But I always believe in giving credit where credit is due. Recently the Malaysian government was presented the Leadership Award in Intellectual Property and Access to Medicines. Surprise? I am sure not many Malaysians are familiar with this award let alone are aware that the Ministry of Health did something so great that it efforts are being recognized internationally.
The government had received the award at the Global Summit of Intellectual Property and Access to Medicines in Morocco for invoking the compulsory license to gain access to hepatitis C medicine at a cheaper price. This means that hundreds of thousands of Malaysians affected with Hepatitis C now have access to the generic version of the hepatitis C drug Sofosbuvir because the government cared enough to act.
There are some 400,000 Hepatitis C patients in Malaysia who will benefit from this commendable effort. Many of those who suffer from Hepatitis C cannot afford the full course of treatment which can cost nearly RM300,000. Moreover since Malaysia is considered a middle-income country, the pharmaceutical companies will not give special prices for the newer drugs. Faced with this situation the Health Ministry decided to collaborate with the Drugs for Neglected Diseases Institute to come about with an affordable cure. This led to the Cabinet approving to issue a government-use license thus allowing the import of generic versions of Sofosbuvir.
A special shout out to Dr Salmah Bahri and her team for their dedication and to the Malaysian government for striving to make healthcare affordable for the rakyat!