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Not only food security, but also medicine | Daily Express Malaysia

THE growing concern about food security has rightly dominated our national discourse. However, another crucial aspect of our nation’s well-being deserves equal attention: the safety of medications.

The Covid-19 pandemic has clearly highlighted the vulnerability resulting from heavy dependence on imported medicines. It exposed the fragility of global supply chains and underscored the critical role a robust local pharmaceutical manufacturing industry plays in ensuring Malaysians have access to affordable, high-quality medicines.

Currently, Malaysia imports more than RM10 billion worth of pharmaceutical products annually. This dependence on external sources places us at the mercy of global fluctuations in price and availability, potentially endangering the health and well-being of the rakyat.

Fortunately, we have the capacity to limit this risk. Our local pharmaceutical manufacturers have proven their ability to produce generic medicines that meet international standards such as the Pharmaceutical Inspection Co-operation Scheme (PIC/s).

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It’s time to empower these manufacturers to play a more important role in our healthcare system. By encouraging and supporting local production of critical medicines, as identified by the National Essential Medicines List (NEML), we can ensure that there is at least one local supplier for every essential medicine.

The NEML, adapted from the World Health Organization (WHO) guideline, consists of a list of locally registered medicines based on Malaysia’s national needs.

Focusing on strengthening local production of these essential medicines would increase the safety of our medicines, reduce our dependence on imports and promote the growth of a vital domestic industry.

The government has already recognized the importance of the local pharmaceutical manufacturing industry by including it as a key sector in the New Industrial Master Plan (NIMP) 2030 and the National Investment Aspirations (NIA) framework. This is a positive step, but we must translate our ambitions into concrete actions.

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Investing in research and development, providing incentives for local manufacturers and promoting collaboration between industry and academia are crucial steps in building a self-sustaining and resilient pharmaceutical sector.

Let us prioritize medicine safety alongside food security to protect the health and well-being of all Malaysians.

Sharvin A. Subramaniam

Malaysian Organization of Pharmaceutical Industry

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– The views expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of the Daily Express.

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