Health & Life Sciences Update: Thailand's Upcoming Healthcare Reform

Health & Life Sciences Update | January 5, 2018
Authors: Shay Wester, Hai Pham, Ying Hui Tng
 
LOOKING AHEAD
 
 

2017 Membership Survey

The Council is constantly striving to improve itself and its services for our members. We would be grateful if you would please take a few moments to give us your opinions on how well the Council has served you and your company's interests in 2017 by completing the 2017 Membership Survey.

January 30-31:  2018 Health & Life Sciences Industry Mission to the Philippines

The Council is now registering executives for our Health & Life Sciences Industry Mission to the Philippines on January 30-31. The mission aims to support the national health agenda and identify opportunities for collaboration with the Department of Health and its new Secretary, Dr. Francisco Duque III. Deadline to register for the mission is Tuesday, January 23, 2018. Please contact Ying Hui Tng at yhtng@usasean.org and Hai Pham at hpham@usasean.org with any questions or to express interest.

March 2018: 2018 Health & Life Sciences Industry Mission to Vietnam

This year, the Health & Life Sciences Industry Mission to Vietnam will be held on the margins of the Council's annual Vietnam Business Mission on March 27-29, 2018. This mission will be focused on continuing our strong engagement with the Ministry of Health (MOH), including our regular Joint Working Group Meeting as part of the Council's MOU with the MOH. For questions, please contact Hai Pham at hpham@usasean.org

 
THE COUNCIL'S TAKE
 
 

Thailand's Upcoming Healthcare Reform

In 2017, a committee drafted and proposed a National Health Security Bill which sparked the first step in the upcoming healthcare reform process in Thailand. As the legislation is expected to move forward in 2018, the public health discussion is being revisited by many with speculations on potential changes to the current health system, which is a universal healthcare scheme that offers most medical services to about 48 million citizens for free. Speaking in an interview in late December, Minister of Public Health Dr. Piyasakol Sakolsatayadorn touched on the topic of co-payments and how the healthcare reform bill would seek to address hospital overcrowding. Dr. Piyasakol mentioned that the reform may include adding co-payments to the system to help relieve the pressure on the government to undertake financial responsibility of the scheme, while not reducing people’s rights to healthcare (note – basic healthcare services), for overall sustainability and long-term efficiency.

Dr. Piyasakol also discussed proposed reforms to ease hospital overcrowding, including: more one-day surgeries at major hospitals to free up beds and rooms; specialized clinics outside normal work hours at major hospitals; referral system that allow large hospitals to transfer patients back to smaller hospitals for recuperation/rehabilitation; and increasing the number of family-medicine units. Dr. Piyasakol added that overall, conflicts over the draft bill has already been reduced since its inception as relevant parties like the National Health Security Office (NHSO – in charge of managing the universal healthcare scheme) and the Public Health Ministry (in charge of the scheme’s operation) have had close cooperation.

Indonesia & US Launch Program to Reduce Maternal & Infant Mortality

On December 22, Indonesia and the United States launched the “Jalin” program, a five-year, $32 million program aimed at improving health services to help poor and vulnerable mother and newborns in an effort to reduce preventable deaths in Indonesia. The program, led by the Indonesia Ministry of Health (MOH) and United States Agency for International Development (USAID), will engage local health professionals, policymakers and insurance providers to improve responsiveness in private and public health services. Currently, the program will be focused in six key provinces including Central Java, South Sulawesi and Banten. According to USAID, 40 mothers and 247 newborns die every day in Indonesia, the highest rates in the region. The reduction of maternal and infant mortality rates was identified by the Government of Indonesia as a priority under the National Medium Term Development Plan for 2015-2019.

 
ADVOCACY UPDATE
 
 

Knowledge-Sharing Workshop with Indonesia MOH and LKPP

Following on to the Council's advocacy effort in 2017 on Indonesia's e-catalogue issue, the Council is sending a letter to the Indonesia Ministry of Health (MOH) and National Public Procurement Agency (LKPP) to propose a knowledge-sharing or capacity-building workshop in Q1 2018 before the next re-opening of the e-catalogue. The workshop will support the POKJA team in MOH and LKPP in understanding the varying technological differences in medical devices and how they may benefit users. For more information, please contact Ying Hui Tng at yhtng@usasean.org.

 
IN THIS UPDATE
 
 
Brunei
MoH reminds allied health professionals to register by March 2018 –
MoH issues health advisory on cholera –

Cambodia
Workshop on Knowledge and Experience Sharing “Community-based Health Operation and Management Course in Japan
Premier Reminds 8 Important Points Related to Workers’ Welfare
Commune/Sangkat Council Members To Get Free Medical Care from 2018

Indonesia
Government secures diphtheria vaccine supply
Ministry, KPI join forces to control falsely claimed ads
Indonesia, US Launch Program to Reduce Maternal, Infant Mortality
Pesticide use threatens health of plantation workers
Activists urge government to improve air quality ahead of Asian Games
Diphtheria deaths in Indonesia spark immunization campaign
Universal Health Coverage Can Help Beat Antimicrobial Resistance
Kimia Farma Strengthens Synergy With Telkom Through Digitalization

Laos
Child health, nutrition among benefits as UNICEF allots 516 billion kip
Laos Partners with Thailand, Myanmar to Control Air Quality
Health, information authorities discuss medicinal product advertising ban
Health officials brush up on financial planning, accounting

Malaysia
Many Unaware Of Indirect Subsidies To Ease Cost Of Living - Najib
Malaysian Economy To Register Healthy Growth In 2018 -- Najib
UKM Develops Low-cost Device To Measure Air Quality
Dengue cases on the rise: Health Director General –
Focus On Five Clusters To Empower Women In 2018
13 key policies to promote a healthier gov’t
Seized fake milk formula 'safe', but doesn't meet quality standards
New health policies draw mixed reaction from various parties
Fake baby formula makers will be named and shamed, minister promises
Pharmaceutical Sector in Malaysia under Market Review
Discovery of fake baby formula in Johor triggers widespread concern

Myanmar
State enterprise aims to boost drug production in 2018
Universal health care is a must for region
Japanese encephalitis vaccination campaign begins in communities

Philippines
Government to procure P7.5 billion worth of vaccines in 2018
PhilHealth inks ‘no deposit’ deal with 6 hospitals
Former Philippine President Defends Controversial Dengue Program
DOH to probe possible Dengvaxia overpricing
Ubial on anti-dengue vaccine drive: I wanted to stop it, but was warned
TRAIN supports healthy lifestyle programs — DOH
Former Health Secretary claims to have been pressured to expand vaccine’s coverage

Singapore
Singapore researchers develop system that predicts treatment targets for cancer
Singapore factory output rises 5.3pc in November despite drag from pharmaceuticals –
Public hospitals to offer more affordable milk formula to newborns
Battling costs, improving care
Singapore firm in AI venture with top Beijing hospital
Disruption comes to healthcare services
A healthy guide to medical fees
Charity HealthServe marks 10 years of offering low-cost medical care, social assistance to migrant workers
Electronic health records key to better and safer care
Calls for stronger partnership between public, private healthcare providers

Thailand
Co-payments near reality as universal healthcare system reformed: minister
Tax on tobacco to cover public healthcare deficit
New campaign promotes premium grade rice
Healthcare scheme a transplant lifesaver for over 3,000 Thais
Thailand battles drug-resistant malaria strains that imperil global ca
MoU signed to make heart-starting devices locally
Nursery tax cut planned to aid fertility
Thailand's 'war on sugar' aims to slim people and fatten coffers-

Vietnam
Ten diseases qualify for free vaccination
Heath insurance coverage hits 86.5% of population
Production of Vietnam’s first foot-and-mouth vaccines to start in Q2
Health Ministry seeks more time to compile data
Electronic disease surveillance system inefficient
Vietnam increases grassroots health care services
Patients paying more for ‘free’ medical equipment
Vietnam’s nuclear medicine makes big leaps within short time - News VietNamNet
Vietnam active in Zero Hunger Action Programme
HCM City sets up groups to inspect food safety
NCDs increase due to excess salt intake
Healthcare info flow improves in 2017: officials
HCM City hospitals use IT to regulate antibiotic use
Pharma investment can unlock new opportunity
Central Highlands works to improve health care service
PM imposes ban on sale of soft drinks at schools
Vietnam looks for more FDI into pharmacy sector
GE Healthcare on a mission to innovate Vietnam’s healthcare
First centralised drugs bid saves US$21 million
MoH clarifies health insurance
 
ARTICLE CLIPS
 
 
Brunei

MoH reminds allied health professionals to register by March 2018 – Borneo Bulletin Online 28th Dec 2017
THE Ministry of Health (MoH) yesterday issued a statement, calling for all allied health professionals in the country, particularly those employed at semi-government organisations and the private sector, to register with the Brunei Darussalam Health Profession Council, through the Board Management Office at the MoH, from January 1 to March 30, 2018. The MoH advisory is related to the implementation of the Allied Health Professional Association’s Order of Brunei Darussalam 2017, which came into effect on July 1 this year, with the aim of ensuring the health, safety and welfare of the general public.

MoH issues health advisory on cholera – Borneo Bulletin Online 17th Dec 2017
THE Ministry of Health (MoH) wishes to inform the public that there has been a reported case of cholera in neighbouring Malaysia. The Ministry of Health of Malaysia has reported cases of cholera in Papar District, Sabah in December 2017. Cholera is an infection caused by the vibrio cholera germs that spread through contaminated food and water. The main symptom of the disease is diarrhoea. In addition, other symptoms may include vomiting and abdominal pain. Severe cholera infection can cause dehydration and death, if not treated.

Cambodia

Workshop on Knowledge and Experience Sharing “Community-based Health Operation and Management Course in Japan Agence Kampuchea Presse 3rd Jan 2018
Director General of Health Techniques of the Ministry of Health H.E. Mrs. Or Vandine (Pic. 1) addresses the participants while she was presiding over the opening ceremony of a Workshop on Knowledge and Experience Sharing “Community-based Health Operation and Management Course in Japan” organised in Kampong Cham province this morning.

Premier Reminds 8 Important Points Related to Workers’ Welfare Agence Kampuchea Presse 28th Dec 2017
Prime Minister Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen has reminded all stakeholders of eight key points to be monitored permanently in order to improve the welfare of workers, especially those in the garment, textile and footwear sector, in 2018. While holding here yesterday a get-together with more than 14,000 workers and employees in Khan Pursenchey along the National Road No. 3, Samdech Techo Hun Sen reiterated that those eight important points are the monthly minimum wage of US$170, free medical checkup and treatment at state-owned hospitals, three-month maternity leave with 120 percent of monthly wage, maternity allowance, social protection in health schemes of which employers are in charge, house rental fees and water and electricity costs to be followed up closely, implementation of social protection in pension scheme starting from 2019, and support for overseas Cambodian migrant workers to get legal status.

Commune/Sangkat Council Members To Get Free Medical Care from 2018 Agence Kampuchea Presse 14th Dec 2017
Some 60,000 commune/Sangkat council members, and village chiefs, deputy chiefs and assistants will have access to free medical checkup and treatment at state-owned hospitals from next year onward. The announcement was made by Prime Minister Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen at the get-together with more than 15,000 workers and employees from 13 factories and enterprises in Kob Srov area, Khan Pursenchey, Phnom Penh yesterday.

Indonesia

Government secures diphtheria vaccine supply The Jakarta Post 29th Dec 2017
The government has secured sufficient supplies of diphtheria vaccines for the outbreak response immunization (ORI) program and antidiphtheria serum (ADS) for diphtheria infected patients, Health Minister Nila Moeloek has said. State pharmaceutical company Bio Farma, the country’s vaccine producer, collaborated with the WHO’s Southeast Asia Regional Office (WHO SEARO) to ensure the supply of both the vaccines and serum amid the current diphtheria outbreak, Nila said.

Ministry, KPI join forces to control falsely claimed ads The Jakarta Post 27th Dec 2017
The Health Ministry has moved to counter false claims on the health benefits offered by some health and wellness products that are advertised on television and other media platforms.

Indonesia, US Launch Program to Reduce Maternal, Infant Mortality Jakarta Globe 22nd Dec 2017
Indonesia and the United States on Friday (22/12) launched a five-year program to improve health services for poor and vulnerable mothers and newborns, seeking to reduce preventable deaths in the world’s fourth most populous country. The "Jalin" program, which will be spearheaded by the United States Agency for International Development (Usaid) and the Ministry of Health, aims to improve efficiency and efficacy through better responsiveness in private and public health services by engaging health professionals, policymakers and insurance providers.

Pesticide use threatens health of plantation workers The Jakarta Post 19th Dec 2017
Oil palm plantations throughout North Sumatra are reportedly still using dangerous pesticides, putting the health of plantation workers and local communities at risk.

Activists urge government to improve air quality ahead of Asian Games The Jakarta Post 18th Dec 2017
Several environmental activists from the Clean Air Movement have urged the government to pay attention to air quality in Jakarta ahead of the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta and Palembang, South Sumatra given the high level of air pollution in the country. Committee for the Phasing Out of Leaded Fuel (KPBB) executive director Ahmad Safrudin said from 2011 to 2016 the air in the country had been exposed to pollutants such as particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5), Sulfur Dioxide, Ozone, Carbon Monoxide, Nitrogen Oxide and Lead.

Diphtheria deaths in Indonesia spark immunization campaign ABC News 11th Dec 2017
Indonesia is immunizing millions of children and teenagers against diphtheria after the disease killed 38 people, mostly children, since January. Children in school uniforms and toddlers clinging to their parents received shots at a high school in Indonesia's capital, Jakarta, on the first day of the campaign Monday. Diphtheria is a bacterial disease that can cause breathing difficulties, heart failure and paralysis. It was more or less eradicated in Indonesia in the 1990s but health officials say it has re-emerged in the past four years because immunization rates have dropped, partly reflecting fears about vaccines.

Universal Health Coverage Can Help Beat Antimicrobial Resistance Jakarta Globe 2nd Jan 2018
Universal health coverage is critical to keeping our most precious drugs fit for purpose. Ensuring all people everywhere have access to health services that are affordable, of good quality and within reach is a public health imperative. Whether to drive down maternal and child mortality, to halt rising rates of noncommunicable disease, or to prepare for and respond to public health emergencies, strong, accessible health systems are key to achieving the sustainable development agenda and securing health and wellbeing for all at all ages. They are also critical to beating back the rapid advance of antimicrobial resistance, a problem caused by mutations in microorganisms – including bacteria – that then become resistant to even the most powerful antimicrobial and antibiotic drugs. Though the battle against antimicrobial resistance across the World Health Organization's Southeast Asia region is being fought on many fronts – from optimizing the use of antibiotics in the animal and agriculture sectors to investing in research and the development of new antibiotics – increased health coverage remains a powerful tool to counter antimicrobial resistance's deadly menace and ensure our most precious drugs remain fit for purpose. This is so for a number of reasons.

Kimia Farma Strengthens Synergy With Telkom Through Digitalization Jakarta Globe 28th Dec 2017
The rapid development of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) requires corporations to continue to adapt to build sustainable businesses. In line with that, PT Kimia Farma (Persero) Tbk (Kimia Farma) synergize with PT Telekomunikasi Indonesia Tbk (Telkom) to strengthen the digitization in Kimia Farma business environment. The realization of the business partnership is marked by the signing of Cooperation Agreement (PKS) of Kimia Farma Digitalization conducted by Director Kimia Farma, Honesti Basyir and Director of Telkom Enterprise & Business Service, Dian Rachmawan in Bandung, Wednesday (27/12).

Laos

Child health, nutrition among benefits as UNICEF allots 516 billion kip Vientiane Times 13th Dec 2017
UNICEF will provide a budget of more than 516 billion kip (US$ 62.8 million) to assist child support efforts and related infrastructure from 2017-2021. This budget will be used to improve health and nutrition, water and sanitation, climate change resilience, education, child protection and social inclusion. The information was outlined during the annual programme review meeting for 2017 held yesterday in Vientiane.

Laos Partners with Thailand, Myanmar to Control Air Quality The Laotian Times 12th Dec 2017
In an effort to control the cross-border smog caused by illegal forest fires, Laos has teamed up with Thailand and Myanmar to address the damage it has contributed to the environment and its poor air quality. Thailand’s Natural Resources and Environment Minister addressed the topic at a meeting earlier in the week, stating that illegal brush fires pose a threat to the air quality of Laos, Thailand and Myanmar. With all three countries plagued by forest fires, the meeting discussed measures on how to efficiently prevent and eliminate the issue of forest devastation and haze caused by wildfires in the North, calling on tighter border cooperation between the countries.

Health, information authorities discuss medicinal product advertising ban Vientiane Times 22nd Dec 2017
Officials have confirmed that all advertising relating to medical products, and others making claims about improving people’s wellbeing, need to be approved by the health ministry. That was the message at a workshop yesterday attended by Deputy Director General of the Mass Media Department under the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism, Mr Inpone Nakhonsy along with senior officials from the Ministry of Health and media. The prohibition aims to reduce the number of public complaints about bogus advertising according to the relevant health regulations, a health official said.

Health officials brush up on financial planning, accounting Vientiane Times 13th Dec 2017
The nation needs improved planning and accounting within the health sector so that adequate resources can be effectively and efficiently directed to target groups and projects. While some progress has been made in the health sector over recent years, inadequate planning had meant that in many areas, local people still faced barriers to access health services including those related to projects completed, Deputy Minister of Health, Mr Khamphone Phoutthavong said. The minister made the remarks at a workshop involving the Ministry of Health and provincial health departments yesterday in Vientiane on dissemination on National Health Accounts (NHA) for fiscal 2013 to 2016 aimed to aid the development of the overall sector.

Malaysia

Many Unaware Of Indirect Subsidies To Ease Cost Of Living - Najib Bermana 3rd Jan 2018
Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said tonight that even as the people lament over the cost of living, many are unaware that the government continues to provide indirect subsidies to help them, especially in terms of health and education. The Prime Minister said the people still enjoy a payment of as low as RM1 for medical services while education is free at the kindergarten, primary and secondary levels. The government, he said, bears 90 per cent of the expenditure for education at public universities.

Malaysian Economy To Register Healthy Growth In 2018 -- Najib Bermana 31st Dec 2017
The Malaysian economy is expected to register healthy growth in 2018 and further reduction of the deficit, said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak. Najib said as reported by the World Bank, the Malaysian economy was progressing from a position of strength.

UKM Develops Low-cost Device To Measure Air Quality Bermana 29th Dec 2017
Who can possibly forget the nasty haze that choked Malaysia and its neighbours in September 2015, causing much concern among Malaysians as the Air Pollution Index (API) readings dipped into the 'very unhealthy' range of between 201 and 300 in some parts of the country. While the haze has somewhat become an annual occurrence in this region, Malaysians can only gauge the air quality based on the API readings provided by the Department of Environment's (DOE) 52 air monitoring stations located throughout Malaysia.

Dengue cases on the rise: Health Director General – Borneo Bulletin Online 28th Dec 2017
The number of dengue cases reported throughout the country from December 10 to 16 was 985, some 35 cases higher compared to the previous week, said Director-General of Health Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah. He said the federal territories of Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya and eight states showed an increase in the number of cases, the states being Penang, Johor, Perak, Negeri Sembilan, Pahang, Sarawak, Melaka and Perlis. However, Dr Noor Hisham said, the cumulative number of cases this year up to December 16 was 81,790 compared to 98,438 in the corresponding period last year, down by 16,648 cases.

Focus On Five Clusters To Empower Women In 2018 Bermana 3rd Jan 2018
Five clusters which are in tandem with the National Women's Policy will be the focus of the government's efforts to empower women in 2018, said Women, Family and Community Development Ministry secretary-general Datuk Suriani Ahmad. The clusters comprised Women and Health (Lifestyle, Beauty and Sports); Women and Safety; Women and Economy; Women and Education (Training and Capacity Building) and Women and Culture (Arts and Media), she said. Suriani said the ministry, through the 2018 Women Empowerment Year, was committed in ensuring women in the country were given equal opportunities in all areas and would not be left out.

13 key policies to promote a healthier gov’t Malaysiakini 31st Dec 2017
The Health Ministry is discussing 13 key policies to promote a healthier living environment for implementation in 2018 and 2019. This campaign is focused on fighting the rise in NCDs or non-communicable diseases. NCDs are conditions caused as a direct result of lifestyle and environmental factors. They are long-term and chronic diseases that rob affected people of many productive years of their life, eventually resulting in death in most cases. These include lung diseases, diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular diseases.

Seized fake milk formula 'safe', but doesn't meet quality standards NST Online 28th Dec 2017
The fake infant formula milk recently seized by the Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Ministry (KPDNKK) in Johor has been deemed safe, but did not meet quality standards. Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said lab test results on the sample showed that the milk did not meet the stipulated quality standard in terms of fat content. "The ministry, through the Food Safety and Quality Division, is working closely with the ministry. We took the samples of the product to be analysed by the Food Safety and Quality Laboratory and Chemistry Department, to confirm the safety of the product.

New health policies draw mixed reaction from various parties NST Online 26th Dec 2017
The move to introduce new policies to promote a healthier nation has been deemed as timely, despite mixed reactions from various stakeholders. Federation of Malaysian Consumer Associations (Fomca) president Datuk Dr Marimuthu Nadason said the move was apt and called the people to support it. “Just look at our Malaysian lifestyle now. The obesity rate is high; many suffer from diabetes, hypertension, and heart problems. “Prevention is better than cure and this is a good initiative, making people start with the government’s nudge,” he told the New Straits Times.

Fake baby formula makers will be named and shamed, minister promises Malay Mail 13th Dec 2017
The Domestic Trade, Cooperatives, and Consumerism will make public the identity of those who produce imitation baby formula, its minister Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainuddin said today. He said his ministry is working closely with genuine baby formula manufacturers and the Health Ministry to stop production of the fake goods. “We will name and shame whoever is doing this. “This investigation is proceeding with the input of the manufacturer of the product and the health ministry,” he said.

Pharmaceutical Sector in Malaysia under Market Review Global Compliance News 12th Dec 2017
The Malaysian Competition Commission (“MyCC“) has commissioned Third World Network (“TWN“), an independent non-profit international research and advocacy organisation, to conduct a market review on the pharmaceutical sector in Malaysia (the “Review“). The market review is being conducted by the MyCC pursuant to powers under Chapter 3 of the Competition Act 2010 (“MCA“). Pharmaceutical companies and other relevant stakeholders should take this opportunity to provide feedback especially if there are any discrepancies or inaccuracies in the draft report. MyCC has set a deadline of 9 am on 7 December 2017 for the submission of feedback. The finalised report, which will be issued after the public feedback sessions, may ultimately be used by the MyCC as the basis for its analysis and findings of anti-competitive practices by pharmaceutical companies in Malaysia.

Discovery of fake baby formula in Johor triggers widespread concern NST Online 11th Dec 2017
The discovery of fake baby formula being sold in Johor has sparked consternation among various quarters. Concerns have since been raised on whether the problem is limited to just the southern state, and how to best tackle it. The scandal came to light last Thursday when the Johor Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Ministry seized 210 boxes of fake baby milk formula, worth about RM42,000, from five supermarkets and pharmacies in the state. The five premises were located in Iskandar Puteri, Mutiara Rini, Taman Orkid, Nusa Bestari and Taman Daya. The raids were conducted after the ministry's enforcement unit had conducted surveillance for the past four months.

Myanmar

State enterprise aims to boost drug production in 2018 The Myanmar Times 19th Dec 2017
The Myanmar Pharmaceutical Industrial Enterprise (MPIE) aims to increase production of medicines next year following the building of new plants at the Insein manufacturing facility, a senior MPIE official said. U Ko Ko Aung, managing director of MPIE, said the company hopes to produce medicines valued at K50 billion (US$36.65 million) this year, which is more than the K30 billion worth of medicines it made last year. “As the new plants of the Myanmar Pharmaceutical Factory (MPF) began operating this year, we aim to increase production capacity in the coming year from what we have produced this year,” he said on Sunday.

Universal health care is a must for region The Myanmar Times 14th Dec 2017
Ensuring all people everywhere have access to health services that are affordable, of good quality and within reach is a public health imperative. Whether to drive down maternal and child mortality, to halt rising rates of noncommunicable disease, or to prepare for and respond to public health emergencies, strong, accessible health systems are key to achieving the sustainable development agenda and securing health and well-being for all at all ages. They are also critical to beating back the rapid advance of antimicrobial resistance (AMR), a problem caused by mutations in microorganisms – including bacteria – that then become resistant to even the most powerful antimicrobial and antibiotic drugs. Though the battle against AMR across Southeast Asia is being fought on many fronts – from optimising the use of antibiotics in the animal and agriculture sectors to investing in research and the development of new antibiotics – increased health coverage remains a powerful tool to counter AMR’s deadly menace and ensure our most precious drugs remain fit for purpose. This is so for a number of reasons.

Japanese encephalitis vaccination campaign begins in communities The Myanmar Times 12th Dec 2017
The Ministry of Health and Sports on Monday launched the nationwide community-based Japanese encephalitis vaccination programme aimed at immunising millions of children from the debilitating mosquito-borne disease.

Philippines

Government to procure P7.5 billion worth of vaccines in 2018 philstar.com 2nd Jan 2018
The Duterte administration is set to buy P7.5 billion worth of vaccines this year, prompting warnings from senators to ensure that these are safe to prevent a repeat of the Dengvaxia vaccine controversy. Based on documents submitted by the Department of Health (DOH) to the Senate, full immunization for infants covers inoculations against hepatitis, polio, pneumonia, measles, mumps and rubella. Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto warned there should not be a repeat of the P3.5-billion Dengvaxia controversy. There were about 830,000 children inoculated with Dengvaxia since April 2016. The vaccination program was suspended when an advisory went out saying that vaccine could trigger life-threatening complications to children who have not yet contracted dengue. Plunder charges have been filed against former president Benigno Aquino III and other officials of the previous administration over the purchase of the vaccine.

PhilHealth inks ‘no deposit’ deal with 6 hospitals The Manila Times 19th Dec 2017
The Philippine Health Insurance Corp. on Saturday said that its regional office for Northern Mindanao has signed landmark memorandum of agreements (MOAs) with six Cagayan de Oro City-based PhilHealth-accredited hospitals, for the implementation of the “No Hospital Deposit Policy” for PhilHealth members. The signing ceremony was held at the SEDA Hotel in Cagayan de Oro City. According to medical doctor Israel Paragas, PhilHealth officer-in-charge vice president for corporate affairs group, the MOA seeks to strengthen Republic Act 10932, or the “No Hospital Deposit Law.”

Former Philippine President Defends Controversial Dengue Program Jakarta Globe 15th Dec 2017
Former Philippine President Benigno Aquino defended on Thursday (14/12) his decision to implement a controversial immunization program using a new dengue vaccine in 2016, saying it was justified with millions of people at risk of being infected by the virus. The decision was made to help prevent a disease affecting up to 2.8 million people, Aquino told senators investigating the campaign after the company Sanofi said its Dengvaxia vaccine was to be strictly limited due to evidence it could worsen the disease in people who had not previously been exposed to the virus.

DOH to probe possible Dengvaxia overpricing Inquirer.net 13th Dec 2017
The Department of Health (DOH) will look into the reason why the government bought the now-controversial vaccine, Dengvaxia, for P1,000 per dose instead of P600, Health Secretary Francisco III said on Wednesday. This after lawmakers during the House committee on good government and public accountability on the botched dengue immunization program found that the cost-effectiveness study commissioned by Sanofi Pasteur recommended the vaccine to be bought for $21 or P1,000.

Ubial on anti-dengue vaccine drive: I wanted to stop it, but was warned Inquirer News 11th Dec 2017
Former Health Secretary Paulyn Rosell-Ubial said some lawmakers has warned that she could go to jail if she would stop the implementation of the P3.5 billion anti-dengue vaccination program during her term. “It is very difficult for me to implement this, I want to stop that, but people in Congress said I will go to jail if we stop it because there’s already a contract,” Ubial said during the joint hearing of the Senate blue ribbon, health, and finance committees on Monday.

TRAIN supports healthy lifestyle programs — DOH philstar.com 22nd Dec 2017
With higher taxes on cigarettes and sweetened beverages under the newly enacted Tax Reform For Accreditation and Inclusion (TRAIN), there will likely be fewer cases of non-communicable diseases in the country next year, according to the Department of Health (DOH). “The TRAIN law provides for an increase in taxes of cigarettes and sugar-sweetened beverages that will support the DOH programs on the promotion of healthy lifestyles and prevention and control of non-communicable diseases,” Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said yesterday.

Former Health Secretary claims to have been pressured to expand vaccine’s coverage Manila Bulletin News 14th Dec 2017
Former Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Paulyn Ubial implicated two members of the House of Representatives as pressuring her to expand the coverage of Dengvaxia, a vaccine whose maker, Sanofi Pasteur, had admitted posed serious health risks to those who had never contracted the disease.

Singapore

Singapore researchers develop system that predicts treatment targets for cancer Channel NewsAsia 1st Jan 2018
Singapore scientists have made a unique discovery about how to treat cancers – when it comes to pinpointing cancer treatment targets, it is better to listen to many computer programmes rather than just one, said the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) on Tuesday (Jan 2). A*STAR said researchers at the Genome Institute of Singapore (GIS) have developed an advanced system that integrates this “wisdom of the crowd” into a single accurate prediction referred to as a consensus algorithm for treatment targets in individual cancers.

Singapore factory output rises 5.3pc in November despite drag from pharmaceuticals – Borneo Bulletin Online 27th Dec 2017
Manufacturers have real reason to be jolly this season as the strengthening global economy continues to buoy demand for Singapore’s exports. Singapore’s factory output expanded 5.3 per cent year-on-year last month. This was below economists’ expectations of a 8.1 per cent increase – largely because of a plunge in biomedical manufacturing output, which tends to be volatile.

Public hospitals to offer more affordable milk formula to newborns Channel NewsAsia 29th Dec 2017
All three public hospitals with maternity wards will offer only more affordable Ready-to-Feed (RTF) infant formula to newly born infants from Jul 1, 2018.

Battling costs, improving care The Straits Times 27th Dec 2017
The problem facing the healthcare system here is not the quality of care given, which remains among the best in the world. The strains on the system come from the rapidly escalating cost of such care, and rising demand from an ageing population. Some steps will be taken to address both next year and time will tell if they succeed. But they should at the very least dampen healthcare inflation, which over the past decade has been rising at almost 50 per cent above general inflation, and also led to an easing in the high demand for beds.

Singapore firm in AI venture with top Beijing hospital The Straits Times 23rd Dec 2017
A Singapore start-up and a top Chinese hospital in Beijing have set up what they say is the world's first artificial intelligence (AI) research centre for neurology. The centre aims to develop technologies that, for example, ensure efficient and consistent diagnosis of brain tumours and vascular diseases, and help patients recover faster through the use of robots.

Disruption comes to healthcare services The Straits Times 21st Dec 2017
More than 15 years after people around the world started using e-mail and text messaging to communicate with family, friends and clients, healthcare services finally are being transformed by digital and mobile technology. Interestingly, a lot of the innovation is occurring in emerging markets and not just in the United States, Europe and Japan, where in the past two decades hundreds of billions of dollars have been invested in healthcare information technology systems that may soon be obsolete. Start-up technology players and more established healthcare providers in countries like China, Singapore, Indonesia and India are responding to these developments and investing in digital services and mobile apps at a rapid pace.

A healthy guide to medical fees The Straits Times 20th Dec 2017
Soaring healthcare costs are a major worry in many countries, especially in fast-ageing ones like Singapore. Any move that boosts transparency in healthcare charges and helps rein in fee hikes would be welcomed by both patients and insurers. The challenge is how to do so impartially and without hurting competition in the medical sector. A decade after fee guidelines set by a doctors' association were scrapped for being anti-competitive, Singapore will institute new ones from next year to be overseen by the Ministry of Health. The new benchmarks will take the form of a reasonable fee range and be determined by an independent committee based on data of actual transacted fees, their distribution and the nature of the procedures.

Charity HealthServe marks 10 years of offering low-cost medical care, social assistance to migrant workers The Straits Times 14th Dec 2017
It takes a community to help migrant workers who need affordable medical care and social assistance. This is the belief of Dr Goh Wei Leong, the co-founder of HealthServe, which has grown from strength to strength and marks the 10th anniversary of its first clinic this year. "Its not just about dishing out medicine. It's about the human community. (In the early days), I realised we needed social workers, counsellors, and legal advisory."

Electronic health records key to better and safer care The Straits Times 13th Dec 2017
With an ageing population and the rise in chronic diseases in Singapore, more patients will have multiple medical conditions requiring coordinated team-based care across healthcare providers. When a patient seeks urgent and critical care at the emergency department of a hospital, timely access to the patient's medical records saves lives.

Calls for stronger partnership between public, private healthcare providers Channel NewsAsia 12th Dec 2017
The Ministry of Health is looking for more opportunities for public and private healthcare providers to work together as Singapore's healthcare needs are set to grow.

Thailand

Co-payments near reality as universal healthcare system reformed: minister The Nation 2nd Jan 2018
Indications are that patients will have to pay a portion of their medical expenses if and when the proposed National Health Security Bill is passed under the junta government. “After we push through this bill, we will hold serious discussions on co-payments,” Public Health Minister Dr Piyasakol Sakolsatayadorn said during a recent exclusive interview with The Nation. He added that there had already been extensive studies on co-payment options.

Tax on tobacco to cover public healthcare deficit The Nation 11th Dec 2017
Indonesia’s Deputy Finance Minister Mardiasmo has said the government would start setting aside revenues from the tobacco excise duty next year to fund the Healthcare and Social Security Agency (BPJS Kesehatan), which has suffered a deficit since the programme kicked off in 2013.

New campaign promotes premium grade rice Bangkok Post 27th Dec 2017
The Commerce Ministry is planning a new campaign called "Think Rice: Think Thailand", aimed at promoting the export of premium-grade rice instead of focusing on commodity grades, says Deputy Commerce Minister Chutima Bunyapraphasara. She said the scheme is due to kick off in 2018 as a pilot project to raise the export volume of premium-grade rice by around 200,000 tonnes within six months to one year.

Healthcare scheme a transplant lifesaver for over 3,000 Thais The Nation 24th Dec 2017
Thousands of lives have been saved in almost a decade since organ transplantation had been added to the National Health Security Office’s (NHSO) universal healthcare scheme for Thai citizens, said NHSO deputy secretary-general Dr Chuchai Sornchamni. About 3,634 Thais have received transplants over the past decade under the universal healthcare scheme, according to figures gathered by Chuchai.

Thailand battles drug-resistant malaria strains that imperil global ca U.S. 15th Dec 2017
BO RAI, Thailand (Reuters) - Once a smuggling stop for Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge guerrillas, Thailand’s border town of Bo Rai finds itself on the frontline of a new battle against drug-resistant strains of malaria that could frustrate global attempts to stamp out the disease. Malaria killed about 445,000 people last year, more than 90 percent of them in sub-Saharan Africa, but the figure has nearly halved since 2000. Now the hard-won gains are at risk from the latest drug-resistant form, which emerged in Cambodia before spreading to Laos, Thailand and Vietnam.

MoU signed to make heart-starting devices locally Bangkok Post 13th Dec 2017
The government has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with a Korean company for a technology transfer to produce automated external defibrillators (AED) for sale in the Thai market, according to the Department of Industrial Promotion (DIP). DIP director-general Kobchai Sungsitthisawad said the commercialisation of locally made AED machines could help cut import expenses incurred by expensive medical equipment from overseas and should also help develop Thailand's medical sector at the same time. Mr Kobchai said the MoU was signed between the DIP and Korean company Mediana Co. The latter will transfer production technology to Thai company Star Microelectronics Thailand Plc.

Nursery tax cut planned to aid fertility Bangkok Post 12th Dec 2017
The Revenue Department has proposed doubling the deduction for any expenditures made to renovate nurseries to support the business and boost Thailand's fertility rate. The Social Development and Human Security Ministry is in the process of drafting a law to support nurseries, with one measure initiated by the Revenue Department, said a source at the Finance Ministry. The measure will allow nurseries to deduct expenditures on construction and renovations by double the current rate, capped at 1 million baht, said the source.

Thailand's 'war on sugar' aims to slim people and fatten coffers- Nikkei Asian Review 11th Dec 2017
Faced with rising obesity rates, as well as health care costs that are ballooning nearly as fast as people's waistlines, the Thai government has introduced an excise tax aimed at nudging beverage makers into making less sugary drinks.

Vietnam

Ten diseases qualify for free vaccination VOV Vietnam 3rd Jan 2018
Ten infectious diseases are entitled to compulsory vaccination under an expanded national vaccination programme (NEVP) that started on January 1.

Heath insurance coverage hits 86.5% of population VOV - VOV Online Newspaper 2nd Jan 2018
The number of social insurance holders was 13.57 million. Around 11.49 million people participated in unemployment insurance. Up to 80.83 million of people had health insurance. Total premium of social, health, and unemployment insurance was VND261.5 trillion, meeting 91.2% of the assigned task, up VND38 trillion against the same period last year. The social insurance sector handed over 9.3 million social insurance books to laborers; granted health insurance cards to 16.6 million people.

Production of Vietnam’s first foot-and-mouth vaccines to start in Q2 VOV - VOV Online Newspaper 1st Jan 2018
The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development expects the mass production of the first made-in-Vietnam vaccines against foot-and-mouth disease will start in the second quarter of 2018.

Health Ministry seeks more time to compile data VOV - VOV Online Newspaper 28th Dec 2017
The Ministry of Health has proposed Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc give it more time to issue circulation numbers for certain medical equipment (categories B, C, D) by January 1.

Electronic disease surveillance system inefficient VOV - VOV Online Newspaper 25th Dec 2017
All hospitals in the country are responsible for reporting about patients with infectious diseases through an electronic surveillance system to enable preventive health officials to take timely preventive action against their spread, but many hospitals fail to report accurately.

Vietnam increases grassroots health care services VOV - VOV Online Newspaper 21st Dec 2017
Minister of Health Nguyen Thi Kim Tien said it is a must to improve the quality and operational efficiency of grassroots-level health care centres in order to attract more patients.

Patients paying more for ‘free’ medical equipment Vietnam News 11th Dec 2017
Dương Đức Tuấn, director of the Centre for Health Insurance Appraisal and Multi-level Payments in the North, under Việt Nam Social Insurance, tells Vietnamplus that “socialisation” of the healthcare sector has not proven to be very friendly to patients. What do you think of the Government’s policy to mobilise resources from the whole society to develop the healthcare sector? I appreciate the policy. It has helped the healthcare sector acquire more advanced technology and raise the quality of its services. The new policy looks for financing of social services from all sectors so as to address the problem of funding shortage experienced by in public healthcare establishments in many province and cities.

Vietnam’s nuclear medicine makes big leaps within short time - News VietNamNet VietNamNet 3rd Jan 2018
Vietnam has been quick to grasp trends and effectively use radiation and radioisotopes in the healthcare sector, according to Tran Duc Thiep, a member of the National Council for the Development and Application of Atomic Energy.

Vietnam active in Zero Hunger Action Programme VOV Vietnam 3rd Jan 2018
Deputy Prime Minister Trinh Dinh Dung has asked for strict implementation of the Zero Hunger Action Programme of Vietnam by 2025 after it is approved by Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc.

HCM City sets up groups to inspect food safety VOV - VOV Online Newspaper 3rd Jan 2018
The Food Safety Management Board of Ho Chi Minh City has established 12 groups to inspect food safety during the Lunar New Year and Spring Festival 2018 across the city. Head of the board Pham Khanh Phong Lan said the inspections will run from now to March 2018, focusing on examining highly-consumed food on Tet holiday such as confectionary, beverages and aquatic products.

NCDs increase due to excess salt intake vietnamnews.vn 3rd Jan 2018
The Vietnamese are eating a lot of salty food. However, many people refuse to accept that excess salt in one’s daily diet is not healthy and may cause several non communicable diseases (NCDs)) such as high blood pressure or heart diseases, participants heard at a workshop on Monday. Speaking at the event, National Institute of Nutrition (NIN) vice director Prof. Trương Tuyết Mai said fatalities caused by NCDs are increasing in Việt Nam.

Healthcare info flow improves in 2017: officials vietnamnews.vn 30th Dec 2017
Information Technology applications in health exams and treatment have improved information flow and storage in the healthcare sector, a year-end review found yesterday. The review conference held in Hà Nội also identified improvements that need to be made in the coming year to overcome challenges and difficulties faced this year.

HCM City hospitals use IT to regulate antibiotic use VOV - VOV Online Newspaper 28th Dec 2017
Many hospitals in HCM City use software to monitor the prescription of antibiotics to ensure they are not abused causing bacteria to mutate to become antibiotic-resistant, a major global health problem, including in Vietnam.

Pharma investment can unlock new opportunity VOV - VOV Online Newspaper 28th Dec 2017
Vietnam has a unique opportunity to unlock sector development in the area of innovative healthcare amid the successful conclusion of international trade agreements and the regional integration through the ASEAN Economic Community.

Central Highlands works to improve health care service VOV - VOV Online Newspaper 27th Dec 2017
Promoting doctor training programmes, coupled with using preferential policies to attract doctors to work in remote localities are part of efforts made by the Central Highlands provinces to improve health care in the region, according to the Steering Committee for the Central Highlands.

PM imposes ban on sale of soft drinks at schools VOV - VOV Online Newspaper 25th Dec 2017
The PM has asked the Ministries of Health, Education and Training, and Labour, War Invalids and Social Affairs to implement the regulation in a bid to improve children’s health and height. The Ministry of Education and Training has been asked to raise the awareness of teachers and students on how to eat a healthy, balanced diet and ensure food hygiene and safety.

Vietnam looks for more FDI into pharmacy sector VOV - VOV Online Newspaper 21st Dec 2017
The Ministry of Health (MOH) estimates that Vietnam has to remit US$2 billion abroad to import foreign drugs but could retain more money in-country if it could attract FDI (foreign direct investment) into the pharmaceutical industry.

GE Healthcare on a mission to innovate Vietnam’s healthcare VOV - VOV Online Newspaper 18th Dec 2017
To mark the signing MoU with Vietnam’s privately-run Vinmec Healthcare System, Terri Bresenham, president and CEO of GE Healthcare in South Asia, Africa, and Southeast Asia, talked with VIR about the challenges of the Vietnam healthcare system.

First centralised drugs bid saves US$21 million VOV - VOV Online Newspaper 14th Dec 2017
The Government will spend VND2.269 trillion (US$100 million) over the next two years on buying five active substances and 22 types of drugs for public hospitals and healthcare centres. This was the main result of the first ever national centralised bidding for procurement of medicines held on December 11. Of the 22 drugs, five are specialised drugs and the remaining 17 are generic ones. Health Ministry officials said the bidding helped save over VND477 billion (US$21 million) for the State budget. Under the earlier decentralised procurement process, the ministry estimates the pharmaceutical products would have cost about VND2.746 trillion (US$121 million).

MoH clarifies health insurance Vietnam News 11th Dec 2017
Private hospitals that have signed health-insurance contracts with Việt Nam Social Insurance (VSI) will continue the contracts next year. However, private healthcare facilities must now have their classifications authorised by the Ministry of Health. Lê Văn Phúc, deputy director of VSI’s Department for Health Insurance Policy said that VSI did not order provincial social insurance agencies to end their existing healthcare contracts with private healthcare facilities.