CASSA CHIEF ASKS – CHEAPER HEPATITIS C MEDICATION – FANTASY, FICTION OR FACT?

‘This sad situation and narrative, more so when highly qualified and well respected medical professionals are leaving the hospitals in droves for lack of career development prospects and lack of recognition while others, of a certain race, religion and stock get rehired almost as soon as they retire?’

CHEAPER HEPATITIS C MEDICATION – FANTASY, FICTION OR FACT?

There seems to be a major debate going on in some circles over the recent announcement on cheaper Hepatitis C Medication.

I fail to understand the euphoria in the media and among, some consumer groups, over the Health Ministry’s plans to produce “affordable versions of Hepatitis C medication.”

Seriously, what is the mitigation really offered?

Most importantly, is what offered a realistic and silver bullet that is expected to save the life of over an alleged 500,000 patients in Malaysia because a cure was now within reach?

Only a gullible half past six – will expect that the Malaysian Ministry of Health will make the medicine available to patients within days or at most, a few weeks.

As such let us re-look at these statements with greater diligence!

We must remember that the treatment of Hepatitis C is often a combination of drugs and one of which is sofosbuvir.

Hence is the MOH going to provide a single drug or a combination of drugs as recommended by various international guidelines and WHO?

I also believe that the treatment depends on the Hepatitis C Virus Genotype and hence will this single drug that is being provided by MOH be appropriate to tackle the different genotypes?

That is not all.

Let us then look at the whole question of administration and management!

Is there liver specialist in all the 12 hospitals to appropriately manage and treat Hepatitis C?

As far as I know, and is common knowledge, that there is a severe shortage of liver specialists in the country!

So the pertinent question is who in these 12 hospitals will be treating Hepatitis C?

Will it be some under trained and ill exposed Para medical support staff or the hospital assistants?

Let us now look at another aspect!

Do the laboratories in these hospitals have adequate resources to monitor the treatment of Hepatitis C?

The plain truth is, it does not take a rocket scientist to invoke the Patent Act 1983 to produce a generic version of the drug, sofosbuvir.

It is also easy to come out with media statements that MOH plans to make the drug available in twelve public hospitals by year end.

But more importantly, will it actually happen or is this another press statement that will never be fulfilled?

And why do I say this?

Several years ago, I decided to cut out paper cuttings of media statements from MOH on “promises!”

We the Malaysian citizens should all do this in view the kind of statements and promises made by our politicians and to hold them accountable!

I remember there were over 124 statements made over time.

Do you know how many were actually delivered?

There were about a dozen.

The only politician who made 12 promises and delivered all of them was Dr Chua Soi Lek, who I still consider the best Health Minister Malaysia has ever seen and had!

For the record, I will continue this my media statements vigil of monitoring the statement on “affordable versions of Hepatitis C medication”  to see if indeed it materializes or it is just another statement thrown to the media on a dry day and to give perceptions?

Most importantly, let us not make promises we cannot keep or deliver!

And let us not get beyond ourselves by making statements that will never be delivered!

And why do I state this?

The truth is that this statement is coming at time when there are allegations and claims of “huge cuts in the health budget!”

That services have been seriously impacted!

That the availability of essential drugs challenged.

That the quality and professional services professed, exhibited and ultimately delivered, seriously embarrassing!

This sad situation and narrative, more so when highly qualified and well respected medical professionals are leaving the hospitals in droves for lack of career development prospects and lack of recognition while others, of a certain race, religion and stock get rehired almost as soon as they retire?

This is no ‘cerita dongeng!’

Even the Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister, Zahid Hamidi alluded to this recently, followed by Deputy Health Minister Hilmi Yahaya!

I always wondered why the country seems to be financially tight when it comes to hiring such professionals but there seem to be no such deficiency of funds when appointing politicians and retired civil servants to various fanciful positions, including special envoys!

And when qualified and experienced public interest practitioners and advocates point these out in the public interest, vigilantes and cyber troopers attack us.