Non-subsidised drugs: Secret?

Leong Sze Hian/

I refer to Mdm Choi Lim Siew’s letter to the Health Minister regarding her problem of cancer treatment and drugs that are non-subsidised, which was copied to, and published on April 6 on The Online Citizen.

In this connection,   I would like to refer to the Committee of Supply for the Health Ministry’s debate in Parliament.

The Health Minister said in reply (“No issues making drug list public but…”, Today, Mar 5) to NCMP Sylvia Lim’s question, that he is open to the idea of putting Singapore’s Standard Drug  List – comprising drugs deemed cost-effective and essential to healthcare provision here and thus subsidised – online for greater transparency.

However, he wanted to avoid lobbing by pharmaceutical companies for their drugs to be included, as they have subjected him to lobbying very often, such that every time a top CEO flies through Singapore, they usually don’t talk about other things, other than “please put my new drug onto your list”.

Why “drugs’list” is secret?

I would like to suggest that the list of non-subsidised drugs be published instead, so that patients will know and be able to make more informed decisions.

In this connection, a recent Ministry of Health reply to media queries which is on its web site, said that more patients are now ‘internet savvy’ and come armed with printouts to request for drugs which may be non-subsidised.

“Hospital acquired infection” also non-subsidised?

If a patient acquires an infection whilst in hospital, and the only treatment is non-subsidised drugs, with no subsidised drug alternative, is it fair for the patient to be burdened with the high cost of the required non-subsidised drugs, since it was a “hospital acquired infection”?

Often, doctors and hospitals prescribe in accordance with global treatment guildlines, non-subsidised drugs.

In such circumstances, is it fair for C Class patients like Mdm Choi Lim Siew to pay the much higher cost?

For the above two situations, shouldn’t they be ”drugs deemed essential to healthcare provision here”?

What has drug CEOs lobbying got to do with publishing the drugs’ list?

I also do not understand how publishing the drugs’ list, will impact the drug company  CEOs who try to lobby the Minister.

Because, with or without the list, wouldn’t CEOs know that their drugs are non-subsidised, and thus lobby the Minister anyway?

By the way, how many times in a year is the Minister visited by CEOs, and how many try to lobby him?

Finally, is it not part and parcel of the Minister’s job to expect to be lobbied by CEOs?

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