Are essential medicines in Malaysia accessible, affordable and available?

Kamaruzaman Saleh, Mohamed I M Ibrahim
Pharmacy World & Science: PWS 2005, 27 (6): 442-6

OBJECTIVE: To assess the pharmaceutical sector to know whether people have access to essential medicines.

SETTING: The study was conducted in 20 public health clinics, five public district drug stores and 20 private retail pharmacies selected randomly in five different areas randomly selected (four states and a federal territory).

METHOD: The methodology used was adopted from the World Health Organization study protocol. The degree of attainment of the strategic pharmaceutical objectives of improved access is measured by a list of tested indicators. Access is measured in terms of the availability and affordability of essential medicines, especially to the poor and in the public sector. The first survey in the public health clinics and public district drug stores gathered information about current availability of essential medicines, prevalence of stock-outs and affordability of treatment (except drug stores). The second survey assessed affordability of treatment in public health clinics and private retail pharmacies.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURE: Availability, stock-out duration, percent of medicines dispensed, accessibility and affordability of key medicines.

RESULTS: The average availability of key medicines in the public health clinics for the country was 95.4%. The average stock-out duration of key medicines was 6.5 days. However, average availability of key medicines in the public district drug stores was 89.2%; with an average stock-out duration of 32.4 days. Medicines prescribed were 100% dispensed to the patients. Average affordability for public health clinics was 1.5 weeks salary and for the private pharmacies, 3.7 weeks salary.

CONCLUSIONS: The present pharmaceutical situation in the context of essential medicines list implementation reflected that the majority of the population in Malaysia had access to affordable essential medicines. If medicines need to be obtained from the private sector, they are hardly affordable. Although the average availability of essential medicines in Malaysia was high being more than 95.0%, in certain areas in Sabah availability was less than 80.0% and still a problem.

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