Pharmaceutical companies dictate prices of medicine in countries

We refer to letters by Mr Teo Miang How and Ms Janet Lee Pai Ping (Why are medicines cheaper in JB?, April 7; and Why the big difference in cost of medicine?, May 10).

Pharmaceutical companies price their drugs differently in different countries.

We understand that in setting their prices, the firms take into account various factors, including their business costs and sales volume in the country, as well as the purchasing power of the consumers.

For these reasons, the prices of drugs in countries geographically close to one another can be quite different.

The Government has adopted a multi-pronged approach to lower drug costs in Singapore.

Public hospitals and clinics consolidate demand and enter into joint procurement to achieve economies of scale.

The Ministry of Health's (MOH's) Agency for Care Effectiveness also works on lowering drug prices through evaluation on the clinical and cost effectiveness of drugs and negotiations with drug companies based on the proven outcomes of the drugs.

Where generic versions of drugs are available or when a group of drugs has similar clinical effects and outcomes, doctors are increasingly reminded to prescribe medications which are the most cost effective for patients.

To make essential drugs more affordable to Singaporeans, lower-to middle-income patients at specialist outpatient clinics and polyclinics can receive up to a 75 per cent subsidy for drugs.

Pioneers enjoy a further 50 per cent off their subsidised outpatient drugs.

MOH will continue to review its policies to keep healthcare affordable for Singaporeans.

Needy patients can apply to MediFund for financial assistance.

Lim Siok Peng (Ms)

Director, Corporate Communications

Ministry of Health

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 15, 2018, with the headline 'Pharmaceutical companies dictate prices of medicine in countries'. Print Edition | Subscribe