Health & Life Sciences Update: February 12, 2019

Health and Life Sciences Update | February 12, 2019
Authors: Shay Wester, Lucius Lee, Alson Soh

LOOKING AHEAD

March 14-15: 2019 Health & Life Sciences Industry Mission to Vietnam

The Council is registering senior-level executives for its Health and Life Sciences (HLS) Industry Mission to Vietnam on Thursday-Friday, March 14-15, 2019. For more information, please contact Lucius Lee at llee@usasean.org or Hai Pham at hpham@usasean.org.

United Nations Every Woman Every Child (EWEC) Movement

The United Nations Secretary-General’s Office has approved the Council’s commitment to the UN’s EWEC movement.The Council is committed to working together with ASEAN governments, the U.S. private sector and civil society to promote child, adolescent and maternal health. We are putting together a Work Plan for members’ input and we look forward to working with members over the coming years to showcase our commitment to the EWEC movement and advancing the EWEC global strategy.

THE COUNCIL'S TAKE

Thai Cabinet Approves New Price Control Measures on Medicines, Medical Supplies, and Medical Services

On January 22, 2019, the Cabinet of Thailand approved a measure to introduce price controls on medicines, medical supplies and medical services. Commerce Minister Sontirat Sontijirawong commented that the addition of these items to the price controls list would not necessarily lead to their prices being capped. A sub-committee, comprising the Ministry of Commerce (MOC), the Ministry of Public Health (MOPH) and the National Health Security Office, as well as insurers, private hospitals, and consumer groups will be formed to discuss an implementation plan.

MOC had proposed new price controls to the Cabinet in response to public outcry surrounding high prices of medical goods and services. According to Supatra Nacapew, chief of the Independent Consumer Protection Committee’s sub-panel on food, drugs, and other health products, while medicine already falls under the Internal Trade Department’s list of price-controlled goods, private hospitals continue to charge 70 to 400 times the controlled price. She added that some private hospitals also add a 33% profit margin to the sale of medications—well above the 10-12% needed to cover hospital overheads.

Private hospitals have in turn argued that price controls will interfere with plans to transform Thailand into a medical hub and limit consumers’ alternatives. Those in favor of price controls counter such claims by highlighting countries like Singapore, where price controls on medical supplies have not detracted from its status as a medical hub. Those opposed to price controls assert that health insurance policyholders in particular will be affected by the price controls. Currently, private hospital medical bills subsume certain medical services under the price of medication. The introduction of price controls would require a detailed cataloging of all medical services, and, as policyholders can only claim reimbursement on medications, they may witness a hike in their medical bills.

Restrictive price control legislation, particularly policies that introduce set pricing levels and caps such as the Maximum Procurement Pricing (MPP) system that was introduced in Thailand last year, may disincentivize the innovation and development of high-quality products, and cause manufacturing and research and development facilities to relocate elsewhere. Despite these potential consequences, MOPH has stood its ground on the MPP despite multiple advocacy efforts from the private sector, with support from the MOC, to make the regime more flexible and business-friendly. It is encouraging that the more business-friendly MOC introduced the new price control measures, but the MOPH will ultimately need to be on board with the final policies guiding the price controls and may call for stricter measures similar to the MPP.

Vaccination Efforts by Vietnamese Government to boost preventive healthcare

Vietnam is working to reduce mortality rates from diseases and epidemics by boosting preventive healthcare through vaccinations. Dr. Dang Duc Anh, Director of the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology (NIHE) said that the Vietnam aims to fully vaccinate over 95% of children under the age of one nationwide in an expanded national immunization program by 2020.

Speaking at a health conference in Hanoi on January 7, Dr. Dang said the program will continue to support disadvantaged localities to increase their vaccination rates. This will be accomplished by improving the capacity of medical staff and ensuring easy access to the expanded immunization program. The NIHE will embark on communication campaigns to raise public awareness of the benefits of full vaccination and additional vaccination shots to encourage citizens to play an active role in getting their children vaccinated.

Since its initial nation-wide deployment in June 2017, 11,183 (or 99 percent) of medical stations across the country applied the system to manage and track individual immunization status. By 2018, the personal vaccination information of more than 1.7 million children was stored on the system.


Vietnam revises law on pharmaceuticals and medical devices market

On 31 December 2018, the Vietnamese Ministry of Health issued two new decrees – Decree No.155 and Decree No.169. These new decrees will revise regulations under Decree No.54 and Decree No.36 respectively. These new decrees aim to help simplify and expedite processes in labelling, certification and licensing in drug imports and medical equipment for foreign businesses.


For the licensing of drug imports without registration papers, Decree 155 requires label models and drug descriptions in the country of manufacturing or country of export unless they have a certificate of pharmaceutical product (CPP). Previously, foreign companies must provide drug descriptions in the country of manufacturing or country of export must be provided along with label models if they do not have a CPP.

Importers are also exempted from the Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) certificate if the manufacturing facilities of the product’s origins are recognized to meet the standards of the GMP or the CPP. Previously, importers must produce multiple GMP certificates if the imported drugs were manufactured by multiple units. In addition, importers will now be exempted from clinical records once their products are subjected to the new regulatory process in Decree 155. This is upheld if no changes are made to information on the indications, dosage and usage instructions of the drug.
Degree 169 aims to establish a legal framework for the management of medical equipment that will meet international norms amidst increasing international integration. Under the decree, all medical equipment will now require approval from local authorities in Vietnam and follow a separate local classification system.

The Vietnamese government expects that foreign companies will be more incentivized to enter the its market with the new policies, seeing that the market has grown 10% year-on-year and is expected to continue its double-digit growth over the next 5 years. Analysts, however, predict that Decree 169 will exponentially increase compliance costs and restrain companies’ ability to import and sell medical equipment.

IN THIS UPDATE

Brunei
+ One in five in Brunei suffering from cancer

Indonesia
+ Health Ministry warns of dengue fever during rainy season
+ Exception demanded for military in national healthcare scheme
+ Jakarta launches health-related digital services

Laos
+ Modern New Unit opens at military hospital
+ Lao flood victims battle dengue, malnutrition
+ Setthathirath Hospital to have major upgrade

Malaysia
+ Govt to develop model for care of the elderly - Wan Azizah
+ Export of medical devices to increase to RM23 bln in 2018
+ Malaysia proposes global plan to tackle non-communicable diseases
+ Public, private hospitals collaboration helps tackle shortage of specialists, facilities
+ Doctors, patients question transparency of Putrajaya’s mySalam health insurance
+ Govt’s B40 health insurance scheme will drive people to private sector, says Umno man
+ Malaysia only achieved 12.9pc cervical screening: DPM | Daily Express Newspaper Online
+ Health Ministry: Misinformation has caused a huge spike in vaccine-preventable diseases

Myanmar
+ Inspired by the lack of reproductive health awareness in Myanmar, Myhealthcare allows patients to chat with doctors

Philippines
+ Measles outbreak expands to other regions in Luzon, Central and Eastern Visayas
+ First 1,000 Days program launched
+ De Lima urges DOH to ensure steady supply of HIV drugs
+ Senate OKs 2019 budget, reenacted timeline cut
+ WHO fears flu pandemic; Philippine vaccine shortage feared
+ Senate seeks to restore DOH budget with DPWH, DILG 'insertions'
+ Duterte signs law strengthening HIV, AIDS health services
+ Over 100 medicines cheaper under Train Law

Singapore
+ NEA to ramp up dengue research after success in field tests
+ AIA launches Singapore’s first insurance plan covering mental illness and recurred critical illnesses
+ Budget 2019 to focus on education, healthcare, security
+ Singapore health promotion still meeting resistance
+ New centre to bolster Singapore's infectious disease management
+ Singapore’s Minister for Health outlines key responses to COI report’s recommendations

Thailand
+ Cabinet approves price control at hospitals
+ The healthy fight over medical prices
+ Thailand lacking trained people for senior care services
+ Controlling medical prices pose a tough test
+ Group hopes Cabinet decision on medical price controls
+ Chikungunya virus infects 121 in Surin


Vietnam
+ Vietnam changes rules in medical devices business
+ Bright future ahead for private health care sector
+ Attractive life sciences seeking more headway
+ Bitter pill to swallow for pharmaceutical investors
+ Healthcare sector strives to control epidemic
+ Vietnam opens up pharma import market for foreign businesses

 

ARTICLE CLIPS

Brunei
One in five in Brunei suffering from cancer Borneo Bulletin 4th Feb 2019
A TOTAL of 625 people in Brunei Darussalam were diagnosed with cancer last year, resulting in 353 deaths. One in five individuals (20 per cent) in the country is affected by the disease. Minister of Health Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham bin Haji Jaafar highlighted this in a message delivered in conjunction with celebrations for World Cancer Day 2019. According to statistics obtained in 2018 from the National Cancer Registry, the risk of contracting cancer for males is 27 per cent, or one in four. The most common types of cancer afflicting men are colorectal (63 cases), trachea, bronchus and lungs (39 cases), and prostate (30 cases). For females, this risk is 29 per cent or one in three. Common cancers among women are breast cancer (80 cases), colorectal cancer (35 cases) and cervical cancer (32 cases).

Indonesia
Health Ministry warns of dengue fever during rainy season The Jakarta Post 21st Jan 2019
People should be extra mindful of the spread of dengue fever amid the rainy season, when dengue-bearing mosquitoes are most active, the Health Ministry said on Monday. According to Health Ministry records, three provinces have declared a dengue fever emergency as of Monday: North Sulawesi, East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) and Central Kalimantan. The ministry’s director for vector-borne and zoonotic diseases, Siti Nadia Tarmizi, said the number of reported dengue fever cases was indeed rising, but every case had to be confirmed to determine whether it was indeed dengue fever. Citing data compiled by the ministry, she said 10 provinces had shown an uptrend in dengue fever cases between Jan. 1 and 17. They were East Java with 1,081 cases, Central Java ( 650 ), West Java ( 541 ), East Kalimantan ( 236 ), South Kalimantan ( 241 ), NTT ( 208 ), Lampung ( 204 ), North Sumatra ( 177 ), South Sulawesi ( 172 ) and Banten ( 120 ).

Exception demanded for military in national healthcare scheme The Jakarta Post 15th Jan 2019
The Defense Ministry has urged the Health Ministry to issue a regulation to exempt Indonesian Military (TNI) personnel from needing a referral to be treated at military hospitals under the national healthcare scheme (JKN). In a meeting on Monday at House of Representatives Commission I, which oversees defense, Defense Director General Maj. Gen. Bambang Hartawan requested that the health minister issue a ministerial regulation as the legal basis for military personnel to bypass the tiered referral scheme when they want to get treated at military hospitals. According to Article 2 of Health Ministry Regulation No. 4/2018 on hospital and patient obligations, every hospital must implement a tiered referral scheme. As of December, 1.5 million TNI members have been registered with the national healthcare program. Like civil servants, police officers and government officials, military personnel get a small part of their pay deducted from their salary to cover the monthly premiums, but military members only need to pay 2 percent of their salaries, while the remainder is covered by profits generated by the operation of military hospitals.

Jakarta launches health-related digital services The Jakarta Post 31st Jan 2019
The city administration launched Wednesday two websites and an app that aim to help improve health services for residents. The three services are Jak-Track, DBDKlim and E-jiwa. Jak-Track is a website that tracks data and reports on the progress of an HIV/AIDS prevention program in the capital. DBDKlim is a website that provides estimates for the number of dengue fever cases in each municipality across Jakarta, with rainfall and humidity used as the main predictors. E-jiwa is an app that focuses on the early detection of mental health issues. The app was invented by a community health center (Puskesmas) in Cilandak, South Jakarta, last year.

Laos
Modern New Unit opens at military hospital Vientiane Times 22nd Jan 2019
Lao Military Hospital 103 has opened a new building to expand the hospital’s existing 50-year-old facilities as part of efforts to overhaul the army’s health services. The opening ceremony of the new building on Saturday was attended by Minister of National Defence, General Chansamone Chanyalath, and General Miao Hua from China’s Ministry of National Defence, along with high-level delegations from the Lao and Chinese armies. The project was financed by about US$29 million (197 million yuan) from the Chinese Ministry of National Defence. The new centre offers comprehensive treatment facilities and has been built to high standards.

Lao flood victims battle dengue, malnutrition The Nation 4th Feb 2019
And this is despite firm agreements between local and foreign health agencies to work together in preventing disease and otherwise attending to health needs. International humanitarian teams in the disaster zone in Sanamxay district, Attapeu province, have reported insufficient food in the camps set up for disaster refugees, as well as shoddy handling of donated relief items and poor hygiene. Wan Sriprasert lost his brother and his home in the village of Ban Mai to the flash floods loosed by the dam’s collapse. He and other displaced people living in temporary shelters at five remaining camps are now facing quite different threats to their lives. “We moved into this temporary housing two months ago after having lived in tents for a long time, so we’re much happier because we have more space and at least a real roof over our heads,” Wan told a reporter touring Hadyao Camp.

Setthathirath Hospital to have major upgrade Vientiane Times 24th Jan 2019
A ground-breaking ceremony took place on Wednesday to mark the start of construction of new facilities at Setthathirath Hospital in Vientiane. The hospital upgrade is part of the government’s efforts to overhaul the country’s health services. The ceremony was attended by the Minister of Health, Associate Prof. Dr Bounkong Syhavong, Ambassador of Japan to Laos, Mr Takeshi Hikihara, and Chief Representative of the Japanese International Corporation Agency (JICA) Laos Office, Mr Yoshiharu Yoneyama.

Malaysia
Govt to develop model for care of the elderly - Wan Azizah Bernama 7th Feb 2019
The government is to implement a diagnostic study to develop an integrated and sustainable long-term model for the care of elderly people, Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail said today. The Deputy Prime Minister said the move was aimed at improving and enhancing the National Plan of Action for Older Persons under the National Policy for Older Persons. She said the study was necessary because many children neglected their parents due to their work and they themselves were under pressure from their economic well-being and lives.

Export of medical devices to increase to RM23 bln in 2018 Bernama 7th Feb 2019
The Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (MATRADE) expects the export of medical devices to rise between RM22 billion and RM23 billion in 2018, after having attained RM21 billion in the first eleven months of the year. Director of lifestyle and life sciences Abu Bakar Yusof said the increase would be partly attributable to MATRADE's participation in the four-day '’Arab Health'’ trade event which began on Jan 28 in Dubai. “MATRADE is convinced that our presence in trade events such as this will elevate Malaysia’s medical device sector and enable our companies to grow further in years to come,” he said in a statement. Abu Bakar said a delegation of 19 Malaysian companies are participating in Arab Health, which is the largest healthcare trade event in the Middle East and North African region.

Malaysia proposes global plan to tackle non-communicable diseases Bernama 7th Feb 2019
Malaysia stated here Wednesday its plan to invite policymakers from 16 countries to fight non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and contain the rising mortality rate due to these diseases over the past decades. The chief executive officer of the Second Meeting of the International Scientific Committee on Exercise Medicine, Prof Dr Lee Chee Pheng, who represented Malaysia, said this was necessary as NCDs were the cause of 71 per cent of the total deaths in many countries. "Malaysia is to initiate a global movement by involving policymakers from 16 countries to fight NCDs with the theme 'Aligning Policy and Exercise Medicine as an Investment towards Combating NCDs.' "We plan to invite all the policymakers concerned to Malaysia on Aug 15 to deliberate on the best policies and practices to fight NCDs," he told Bernama on the sidelines of the scientific committee meeting which was held at the Hungarian University of Physical Education here Wednesday.

Public, private hospitals collaboration helps tackle shortage of specialists, facilities | Malay Mail Malay Mail 6th Feb 2019
Efforts to raise the level of cooperation between public and private hospitals to improve the country’s healthcare system have been carried out since the formation of the Health Advisory Council last month, according to Health Minister Datuk Seri Dzulkefly Ahmad. He said he was confident that the collaboration would also help public hospitals, in particular, to tackle various issues like shortage of specialists and facilities as well as heavy workload and rising cost of treatment.

Doctors, patients question transparency of Putrajaya’s mySalam health insurance | Malay Mail Malay Mail 30th Jan 2019
Doctor and patient groups have raised concerns about a government-run health insurance scheme for the poor that they say lacks details and has insufficient benefits. Former Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) president Dr Milton Lum said the Finance Ministry’s mySalam health insurance scheme for the Bottom 40th percentile (B40) of income earners ― to which insurance company Great Eastern Life is contributing a whopping RM2 billion ― must have mechanisms in place to prevent corruption. “Not only will it lead to congestion [at public hospitals], the question also to be asked is whether it will lead to corrupt practices,” Dr Lum told Malay Mail.

Govt’s B40 health insurance scheme will drive people to private sector, says Umno man | Malay Mail Malay Mail 25th Jan 2019
Putrajaya’s newly-launched health insurance scheme for the bottom 40 per cent of workers (B40) will encourage more patients, doctors and specialists to opt for the private sector instead of the public healthcare system, Umno vice-president Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin claimed today. He also said the mySalam scheme lacked substantial research and consultation with stakeholders and neglected another significant income group, the middle-class which forms another 40 per cent of workers in Malaysia (M40) and who are also financially struggling to afford quality healthcare. “Indeed, this scheme will encourage more patients and specialists to go to the private sector, weakening our Malaysian public healthcare system,” he said in a statement.

Malaysia only achieved 12.9pc cervical screening: DPM | Daily Express Newspaper Online Daily Express 16th Jan 2019
Malaysia has only managed to achieve a rate of 12.9 per cent in terms of cervical screening, said Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail. She said the rate fell far below the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) target of 70 per cent, hence the challenge to get women to come forward to be screened. “The lifetime risk of a Malaysian woman to develop cervical cancer is 1 in 116. Only 24 per cent of Malaysian women were diagnosed at the early stage (Stage 1), while 76 per cent were diagnosed at later stages (Stage 2, 3 & 4). “Early prevention is the answer to stopping this disease in its tracks,” she said when launching the ‘Removing Obstacles to Cervical Screening (R.O.S.E)’Programme here.

Health Ministry: Misinformation has caused a huge spike in vaccine-preventable diseases The Star Online 22nd Jan 2019
Misinformation about vaccines has caused a huge spike in vaccine-preventable diseases, with almost a 1,000% increase in the number of measles cases compared to five years ago.The Health Ministry said the exponentially increase in vaccine-preventable infectious diseases in the country was primarily due to misinformation about vaccines being spread on social media. According to the Health Ministry, the number of measles cases jumped exponentially from 195 cases in 2013 to 1,934 cases last year. Last year, there six deaths related to measles and none of the victims were immunised.

Myanmar
Inspired by the lack of reproductive health awareness in Myanmar, Myhealthcare allows patients to chat with doctors Yahoo 18th Jan 2019
After winning Startup of the Year last year in ASIAN Rice Bowl Startup Awards in Malaysia, the name Myhealthcare started to gain traction in health tech industry, and that’s not without a reason. Enter Chit Hnin Pwint Wai, who’s an aid of women reproductive issue, and took the matter seriously to start a company. “In Myanmar, there is a lack of reproductive health access directly to the expertise. Burmese (Myanmar) women are too shy to discuss issues about contraceptives with family members, friends, and even doctors face to face. They don’t want to go to the hospitals for sexual health problems due to fear of being stigmatised,” said Chit.

Philippines
Measles outbreak expands to other regions in Luzon, Central and Eastern Visayas cnn 7th Feb 2019
The Department of Health (DOH) expanded its outbreak warning for measles to more areas in Luzon, Central and Eastern Visayas following its declaration in Metro Manila and Central Luzon on Wednesday. Health Secretary Francisco Duque announced that they have raised the red flag for measles infections in Ilocos Region, Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon, Calabarzon, Mimaropa and Bicol region due to an alarming increase of cases reported. "We are expanding the outbreak from Metro Manila to other regions as cases have increased in the past weeks and to strengthen surveillance if new cases and alert mothers and caregivers to be more vigilant," Duque told the press Thursday.

First 1,000 Days program launched Concept News Central 24th Jan 2019
Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) and United Nations children’s agency UNICEF, in partnership with the Department of Health (DoH) and National Nutrition Council (NNC), on Thursday launched an integrated nutrition and health program targeting the first 1,000 days of life of 40,000 children under-5 and 57,000 pregnant/lactating women in Samar, Northern Samar, and Zamboanga del Norte. “The Korean Government fully supports the Philippine government in its goal of addressing malnutrition and achieving universal healthcare. By giving assistance to this project, the most vulnerable – mothers and children ages 0-5 years old – will be ensured access to vital health and nutrition services which will help them develop fully later in life,” said South Korea’s Ambassador Han Dong-Man during the launching of the program at the Marco Polo Hotel Ortigas. The support from KOICA amounts to US$6 million and targets 19 local government units in three provinces, namely Samar and Northern Samar in Region VIII and Zamboanga del Norte in Region IX. Expected to benefit from the initiative are 12,000 infants 0-5 months old, 36,000 6-23 months old – including children from poor families and children from geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas – and 57,000 pregnant and lactating women.

De Lima urges DOH to ensure steady supply of HIV drugs Manila Bulletin News 22nd Jan 2019
Detained Senator Leila de Lima has urged the Department of Health (DOH) to address the reported shortage in the supply of antiretroviral (ARV) drugs for people with Human Immunodeficiency Virus/Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (HIV/AIDS). In a letter she sent to DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III last week, de Lima said the DOH should ensure there is ample supply of the drugs and effectively assist HIV patients in need of the treatment drugs. De Lima informed the DOH chief that some patients have called her attention about the lack of ARV drugs in the past weeks despite claims the agency’s claims of sufficient available treatment for HIV-positive Filipinos, forcing them to skip their treatment.

Senate OKs 2019 budget, reenacted timeline cut BusinessMirror 22nd Jan 2019
THE Senate, voting 14-0, on Monday passed the Palace-proposed P3.757-trillion 2019 budget bill, paving the way for bicameral talks with the House of Representatives to quickly hammer out a reconciled Senate-House version of the annual money measure. The goal is to have the reconciled version signed into law by President Duterte soon, cutting short the period that the government would have to operate on a reenacted 2018 national budget. In explaining why she voted to approve the proposed 2019 national government budget on third and final hearing, Sen. Risa Hontiveros said the measure “fully restores the budget of the Department of Health (DOH), particularly the budget of the department’s Health Human Resources Deployment (HHRD) and Health Facilities Enhancement Program (HFEP).” The restoration of that P16.8-billion had been a sticking point among lawmakers who cited the severe challenges in providing for adequate health and medical services especially n public hospitals. “The restoration of the DOH’s budget would ensure the continuation of key programs such as cancer control and the deployment of doctors, nurses, dentists and midwives to rural areas and poor communities needed for the challenging task to provide universal health care for all,” Hontiveros said in her explanation of vote.

WHO fears flu pandemic; Philippine vaccine shortage feared philstar.com 20th Jan 2019
MANILA, Philippines — As the World Health Organization (WHO) warned of the possibility of “another influenza pandemic” within the year, an expert has revealed a shortage of flu vaccines in the Philippines. “Vaccine is still the best strategy against vaccine-preventable disease. But now that there is a shortage of flu vaccine, we should focus on treatment to curb the rising cases of influenza,” former Philippine Society for Microbiology and Infectious Diseases president Rontgene Solante noted at a media forum last week. Solante said the Philippines may not have enough vaccines to protect people from influenza because of the long-standing practice of the pharmaceutical industry worldwide to allocate supplies.

Senate seeks to restore DOH budget with DPWH, DILG 'insertions' Rappler 16th Jan 2019
Senators agree to add some P24.4 billion to the health department's budget to fund programs for health facilities and health workers MANILA, Philippines – Senators are eyeing a portion of the controversial P75 billion in the proposed 2019 Department of Public Works and Highways budget to restore the roughly P24.4 billion needed this year for the health facilities and human resources programs of the Department of Health (DOH). This was the proposal made by Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Tuesday, January 15, to which, he said, Senators Loren Legarda and JV Ejerctio agreed as Senate finance and health committee chairs, respectively. Apart from the P75 billion "insertion" in the DPWH’s proposed 2019 budget, Drilon said the funds needed for the DOH can also be sourced from the P27.7 billion added to the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) budget without the knowledge of its head, Secretary Eduardo A?o.

Duterte signs law strengthening HIV, AIDS health services Rappler 15th Jan 2019
President Rodrigo Duterte has signed into law a new policy that makes health services for HIV/AIDs (Human Immunodeficiency Virus Infection and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) more accessible to Filipinos. Duterte signed the Philippine HIV and AIDS Policy Act of 2018 on December 20, 2018, Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said on Wednesday, January 9. The new law is also known as Republic Act No 11166, according to a copy of the signed law sent by Malacanang to media on Wednesday. The new law repeals the 21-year-old “Philippine AIDS Prevention and Control Act of 1998” (Republic Act 8504) in order to replace it with strategies based on more current knowledge and experience in dealing with HIV/AIDS.

Over 100 medicines cheaper under Train Law The Manila Times Online 15th Jan 2019
Over 100 medicines cheaper under Train Law Over 100 medicines for diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol are cheaper now that the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (Train) Law took effect. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) submitted to the Department of Finance (DoF) the list of medicines with their generic names and brands that were exempted from the payment of the value-added tax (VAT) beginning January 1 as provided under the Train Law.

Singapore
NEA to ramp up dengue research after success in field tests The Straits Times 31st Jan 2019
The population of dengue-carrying mosquitoes in Nee Soon East and Tampines West has been cut by at least half after the release of sterile male mosquitoes, which leads to eggs that cannot hatch. And this success will see the scheme, labelled Project Wolbachia, expanded to wider areas in the two estates. From April last year to this month, the National Environment Agency (NEA) saw an 80 per cent fall in the Aedes mosquito population in a research area in Nee Soon East. The population was halved in the Tampines West study site, the agency said yesterday. Still, "it is not a magic bullet" that will solve the mosquito problem, said Associate Professor Ng Lee Ching, director of the NEA's Environmental Health Institute. "It will complement what we are doing: source reduction, mozzie wipeout (campaign), and removing as many mosquitoes as possible from the community." Dengue continues to be a perennial problem for Singapore. There were 455 cases reported in just the first two weeks of this month - triple the number reported over the same two-week period in January last year.

AIA launches Singapore’s first insurance plan covering mental illness and recurred critical illnesses Business Insider Singapore 25th Jan 2019
A new critical illness plan covering mental conditions has been launched by insurance company AIA. In a statement, AIA Singapore said this is Singapore’s first-ever insurance policy to provide coverage for mental conditions, namely major depressive disorders (MDD), schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and Tourette syndrome. According to the company, Beyond Critical Care is also the first to cover five re-diagnosed or recurred critical illnesses, including major cancer, stroke, heart attack, heart valve surgery, and major organ or bone marrow transplantation. It also provides up to 200 per cent coverage for 43 major stage critical illnesses, and a 100 per cent premium refund at the end of the policy term for policyholders who remain healthy.

Budget 2019 to focus on education, healthcare, security The Straits Times 21st Jan 2019
Singapore's needs in education, healthcare, security and defence are growing, and the upcoming Budget will focus on these areas, said Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat. Mr Heng, who will deliver the Budget statement on Feb 18, said another priority will be to help Singaporeans grapple with significant changes taking place in the global economy and make use of opportunities, especially with technology. Speaking on the sidelines of a community event in Tampines yesterday, he said: "We've done well in providing healthcare and education. We'll continue to do that - the needs in those areas are growing. At the same time, the needs for better security, and better ability to defend ourselves, are also growing." The Budget will focus on these key areas as well as in transforming Singapore's economy, he said.

Singapore health promotion still meeting resistance Financial Times 17th Jan 2019
Singapore takes health seriously and decided two decades ago employers should too. In 1999, it introduced the Singapore HEALTH (Helping Employees Achieve Life-Time Health) awards to recognise organisations that showed a strong commitment to promoting workplace health. Despite these efforts, Singapore’s ministry of health knew it would have to step up its drive to improve the country’s health, so in 2016 it declared war on diabetes. In outlining his plan at the time, health minister Gan Kim Yong said the disease was costing the country S$1bn ($730m) a year. Worse still, of the 400,000 residents of the city state estimated to have the disease, one in three were unaware they did. It was against this backdrop that the Health Promotion Board revamped the biennial health awards in 2017. Its renewed focus on workplace participation came as it presented findings from its own research that showed young adults in Singapore between the ages of 21 and 39 gained weight faster than any other age group as they transitioned into working life. Their jobs were typically quite sedentary and they were adopting potentially unhealthy diets.

New centre to bolster Singapore's infectious disease management The Straits Times 16th Jan 2019
A new state-of-the-art national centre for managing infectious diseases is set to be fully operational by May 2019. The 330-bed National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID) is designed to manage an outbreak on the scale of Sars in 2003, said its executive director Leo Yee Sin at a media briefing on Wednesday (Jan 16). It stands next to the new Ng Teng Fong Centre for Healthcare Innovation and together, the two facilities in Novena cost $900 million to build. Professor Leo said the rooms in the 17 wards are spacious, allowing the centre's capacity to be increased quickly if necessary. Doctors and nurses also have ample space to move around while wearing protection gear. The NCID takes over the functions of Tan Tock Seng Hospital's Communicable Disease Centre, which ceased operations on Dec 13 last year.

Singapore’s Minister for Health outlines key responses to COI report’s recommendations Healthcare IT News 16th Jan 2019
Minister for Health Gan Kim Yong delivered a ministerial statement on the Committee of Inquiry (COI) report on the SingHealth cyberattack in the Singapore Parliament on January 15 2019. In the statement, he said that the Ministry of Health (MOH) has appointed a Cybersecurity Advisory Committee to conduct a horizontal review of the cybersecurity governance structures and processes across the public healthcare clusters and Integrated Health Information Systems (IHiS), the IT agency for the Ministry. He also outlined four key responses to the COI report’s recommendations. The first is enhancing governance and organisational structures as there is a “need for clearer cybersecurity risk ownership and accountability between IHiS and the public healthcare clusters, underpinned by a strong relationship to avoid fragmenting the Ministry’s healthcare IT strategy.”

Thailand
Cabinet approves price control at hospitals Bangkok Post 22nd Jan 2019
Prices of drugs, medical supplies and medical services will soon be overseen by a joint panel after the cabinet approved adding them to the price control list on Tuesday. Unlike other goods, the addition to these products to the list does not mean their prices would be capped, Commerce Minister Sontirat Sontijirawong said after the cabinet meeting. “Medical care is quite different from other products and services whose prices can be fixed,” he explained. Instead, a sub-committee will be set up to work out fair measures for all stakeholders, including people who may have to use the services at private hospitals from time to time, he said. The panel will consist of representatives from the government — Commerce and Public Health ministries — insurers, private hospitals, consumers’ groups and the National Health Security Office, operator of universal health care programme, he added. “Please don’t think the government is trying to cap the prices of medical services. Of some 50 goods items currently under the list, only sugar sees its price capped. The prices of other products are based on their real costs,” he said. The Commerce Ministry earlier proposed the addition after receiving numerous complaints from the public about the high prices. The cabinet meeting on Tuesday did not lay down any special policy on the issue but wanted the sub-committee to introduce appropriate measures including price displays on websites, he said. The measures would be proposed to a central committee on product and service prices in the near future, the commerce minister said. Recently the management of private hospitals expressed disagreement on the price control initiative, saying they deserved the right to set their own prices because they had invested in the hospitals. Hospital and healthcare stocks were not affected by the news. The Health Care Services sector index (HELTH) of the Stock Exchange of Thailand jumped 3.9% at 4.32pm.

The healthy fight over medical prices Bangkok Post 21st Jan 2019
Controlling medical and healthcare service prices remains a hot topic in Thailand's healthcare industry, with the move poised to become an epic struggle between private hospitals, state officials and consumer representatives. On Dec 27, the Commerce Ministry announced plans to put medical-related fees, including drugs, supplies and service charges, on the price control list. After listing this category as under price control, a subcommittee will convene to decide reasonable rates for services and establish price ceilings. The Commerce Ministry needs to hold more discussions with all stakeholders to ensure that the measures, once put in place, will be fair to all parties -- consumers and private hospitals, said Commerce Minister Sontirat Sontijirawong. "These services are performed differently at private and public hospitals using equipment of different quality," said Siripen Supakankunti, a professor at Chulalongkorn University's Centre for Health Economics. "No one knows what price we should charge for public and private services because we don't know the actual cost of each healthcare product," she said.
Thailand lacking trained people for senior care services Bangkok Post 25th Jan 2019
Thailand is sorely lacking in people with the skills needed to provide services for an ageing society, according to the Business Development Department. Director-general Wuthikrai Leeweerapan said on Friday that Thailand possessed people with a mind for service, reasonable prices and a wide range of tourist attractions and resorts, all suited to cater to ageing populations in Thailand, Japan and European countries. However, Thailand lacked doctors, nurses, assistant nurses, nutritionists and therapists to meet the demand for senior care, he said. In addition, some of existing senior care premises provided substandard services, and there were complaints about inadequate care and inability to handle deaths of elderly people, Mr Wuthikrai said.

Controlling medical prices pose a tough test The Nation 23rd Jan 2019
WITH THE Cabinet approving the resolution to control the prices of medical supplies and services yesterday, a bigger test awaits the government as to whether it will be able to ensure implementation. Complaints are now growing from private medical facilities that warn the regulation poses a threat to make the country a medical hub and also denies people alternatives. And now claims are being made that people buying health insurance will also bear the brunt. “We will monitor the government’s next moves closely,” Supatra Nacapew, the chief of the Independent Consumer Protection Committee’s sub-panel on food, drugs and other health products, said yesterday.

Group hopes Cabinet decision on medical price controls The Nation 22nd Jan 2019
The group is also claiming that approving the price control will not affect Thailand’s goal to become a medical hub, but will only help curb the overly high fees charged by private hospitals. Supatra Nacapew, chief of the Independent Consumer Protection Committee’s sub-panel on food, drugs and other health products, said her group hopes that Commerce Minister Sontirat Sontijirawong will submit the proposal to the Cabinet today as he had promised earlier. Her group also hopes the proposal is approved, so a committee can later work out the details on implementation. “Though medicines come under the Internal Trade Department’s list of price-controlled goods, little has been done because private hospitals still charge 400 times and sometimes even 700 times the price stated on the label,” she said.

Chikungunya virus infects 121 in Surin Bangkok Post 19th Jan 2019
An outbreak of Chikungunya disease, a virus spread by mosquitoes, has struck three villages in this northeastern province, with 121 people falling ill. Theeraphol Sakulrat, chief of Sikhoraphum district, said affected residents of the villages in tambon Jaraphat had sought treatment at clinics in the province. Many suffered from high fever and pain in their ankles. Health officials found 121 residents were infected, he said after visiting patients in the tambon where the outbreak was reported.

Vietnam
Vietnam changes rules in medical devices business Vietnam Net 28th Jan 2019
The Ministry of Health (MoH) recently held a meeting to announce Decree No.169/2018/ND-CP, governing the management of medical equipment, which amends some regulations in Decree No.36/2016/ND-CP. Because of its wide impact, the event attracted the participation of hundreds of medical equipment producers and suppliers. “Decree 169 is to create a legal framework for the management of medical equipment in the new development period amidst increasing international integration, while meeting international norms,” said Nguyen Minh Tuan, head of the MoH’s Department of Medical Equipment and Works. Under Decree 169, there are some changes. They include the amendment and supplementation of the concept of ‘medical equipment,’ regulations related to medical equipment containing narcotic and precursor substances, and classification of medical equipment, as well as the supplementation of cases allowed to adjust information in announcement dossiers, and of cases rapidly getting circulation registration numbers.

Bright future ahead for private health care sector Vietnam Net 20th Jan 2019
The research service provider Fitch Solutions Macro Research stated in a recently-released commentary that Vietnam’s private health care sector is undergoing a period of rapid expansion. The long-term rise of household incomes will also provide a boon for private hospitals which generate a substantial amount of their revenues from out-of-pocket payments. The paper indicated that the number of private hospitals has more than quadrupled to 170 over the past decade whilst an additional 200 investment projects in hospitals have been approved. The Vietnamese government also wants to develop the private health care sector, with a view of having privately-owned hospitals account for 20% of the total number of nationwide hospitals by 2020. It noted that French and US companies remain the dominant foreign players running hospitals, while those from Thailand (Bumrungrad Hospital), Indonesia (Lippo Group), Malaysia (IHH Health care and KPJ Health care), and Singapore (Parkway Holdings) are now setting up operations or have expressed an interest in establishing facilities. These private health care players anticipate strong growth within the sector, and Fitch Solutions Macro Research views this as a major driver behind the overall growth in the health care market, and by extension the sales of medicine, over the coming years. The country’s health care market is set for a period of development as reforms within the sector gather momentum. Like many of its Asian neighbours, Vietnam is attempting to achieve universal health care through the implementation of a comprehensive health insurance system.

Attractive life sciences seeking more headway Vietnam Net 20th Jan 2019
Having been working as country president of ­AstraZeneca Vietnam for several months, Nitin Kapoor last week announced a partnership with Plan International Vietnam to bring the award-winning Young Health Programme (YHP), a global disease prevention ­initiative set up in 2010, to the country. “We go beyond innovative medicines, and offer holistic healthcare solutions for patients. We work with regulatory authorities to seek viable solutions in balancing payments and ensuring the quality of medical care in Vietnam, while constantly bringing our innovation,” said Kapoor. The YHP follows many life science programmes that AstraZeneca has been implementing in Vietnam for years, aiming to contribute to healthcare advancement for local patients while enabling the firm to make long-term and sustainable profits. The YHP is being brought under a three-year programme to Vietnam, a country where common non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease and respiratory disease take a heavy toll on patients, caregivers and the healthcare system.

Bitter pill to swallow for pharmaceutical investors vietnamnews.vn 16th Jan 2019
Pharmaceutical stocks could be a bad bet this year, as the firms are set to report slower earnings growth for 2018. Pharmaceutical companies were once defensive stocks that provided constant dividends and stable earnings regardless of the state of the overall stock market.

Healthcare sector strives to control epidemic vietnamplus.vn 16th Jan 2019
This year, the healthcare sector aims to reduce death rates caused by diseases and epidemics to increase life expectancy. That was the key objective discussed by the healthcare sector during an online conference held on January 15. The sector would focus on improving capacity and performance to help develop a fair, effective, quality and sustainable system to meet high demands of people. This year, the sector has to fulfil two targets set by the National Assembly and the Government of ratio of 2.7 hospital beds per 10,000 persons, and 88.1 percent of people buying medical insurances, heard the conference. In terms of preventive healthcare activity, the sector would strive to achieve early detection and control epidemics to reduce death rates by infectious disease as well as closely supervise and prevent infectious plagues at international border gates to avoid disease coming into the country. It continued to make efforts to ensure safe vaccinations with the rate of 95 percent of children vaccinated, ensure adequate vaccine supply, and develop different types of vaccination services for people.

Vietnam opens up pharma import market for foreign businesses Voice of Vietnam 3rd Feb 2019
It is now easier for foreign companies to join the Vietnamese pharmaceutical market, buoyed by recently-loosened business conditions regarding drug registration and imports. The Ministry of Health (MoH) has recently issued two new decrees – Decree No.155/2018/ND-CP and Decree No.169/2018/ND-CP, which revise a number of regulations under Decree No.54/2017/ND-CP and Decree No.36/2016/ND-CP, respectively. Previously, with regulations stated in Decree 54 and Decree 36, drug registration and drug imports to Vietnam were among the top concerns for international pharmaceutical firms from the EU and ASEAN for years. Many complained that regulations in the decrees jammed their operations and proposed changes to these to facilitate their business.