News of the medicine shortage has struck fear in the public. This is especially true for patients of chronic illnesses who need to take their prescribed medication daily. Many might wonder why. The medicine shortage is caused by a combination of issues including the COVID-19 pandemic, the surge of Hand-Foot-and-Mouth disease cases, the lockdown in China and Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the COVID-19 condition in China have had a huge impact on the price and availability of many items including food. But how are these issues linked to the medicine shortage in Malaysia when most of the medications in Malaysia are not made in Russia, Ukraine or China?
Malaysia’s manufacturing of pharmaceutical products is reliant on the active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) and pharmaceutical intermediates imported from other countries. China is the world’s number one supplier of APIs and pharmaceutical intermediates. This means that even for medications made in Malaysia, the production is still affected by the condition in China.
Russia’s War in Ukraine
Russia’s War in Ukraine has caused a spike in oil prices. This affects almost all industries as the cost of transportation has risen.
Certain pharmaceutical ingredients are also derived from petrol.
Russia, Ukraine and China are major exporters of starch. Starch is a crucial excipient in many pharmaceutical products. Starch acts as a binder of powders in a tablet. Starch also controls the viscosity of syrups.
Russia is also an exporter of aluminium which is used in the packaging of medications.
Are We Having A Medication Shortage?
At least at this moment, a minor one.
“Life-saving drugs remain in ample supply,” said Chan Li Jin, the executive director of Pharma-ceutical Association of Malaysia (PhAMA).
“At this point, no products have experienced total supply disruption as many products have alternatives from other brands with the same indications,” said pharmacy services senior director Norhaliza A Halim.
The surge in demand for medication is still manageable. However, medication shortage can be a self-fulfilling prophecy if the public panic-buy medications.
No shortage of medicine supplies in Malaysia, says health ministry [Internet]. CNA. 2022 [cited 6 June 2022]. Available from: https://www.channelnewsasia.com/asia/malaysia-no-shortage-medicine-supplies-health-ministry-2725146