|Health & Life Sciences Update | August 16, 2019
Authors: Sunita Kapoor, Hai Pham and Rachel Forrest
August 21: Deadline for Call for Input - Health & Life Sciences Industry Issues & Recommendations in Vietnam
August 21: Health & Life Sciences Committee Call on Pricing Issues in ASEAN
October 28 – November 1, Thailand: 28th Pharmaceutical Product Working Group (PPWG) Meeting
November 8 or week of November 25-28: Regional President’s Luncheon on the Healthcare Sector
Q3/Q4 2019: Roundtable on Pricing Issues in ASEAN
Q3/Q4 2019: Roundtable on the Digital Transformation of the Healthcare Sector
Q3/Q4 2019: Potential Study Tour for ASEAN Policymakers in the Healthcare Sector
November/December 2019: Joint Meeting between ASEAN Senior Officials’ on Youth and Senior Officials’ Meeting on Health Development
Others: The Council may conduct a Health & Life Sciences Mission to the Philippines in Q4 of 2019 and is currently gauging member interest in participating in this mission. If interested and for further information please contact Sunita Kapoor (email@example.com).
|THE COUNCIL'S TAKE|
Thailand’s New Public Health Minister
The confirmation of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s cabinet by the King of Thailand last month brought new faces and policy directions. Anutin Charnvirakul was appointed as the new Minister of Public Health and will also serve as a Deputy Prime Minister. Anutin previously served as the leader of the Bhumjaithai (BJT) Party, helping secure Prime Minister Prayut’s position in the coalition government. Anutin’s political power within the party and support for marijuana legalization and commercialization within Thailand were key factors contributing to his appointment. Developing a medical cannabis industry is among top policy priorities for Thailand’s new government. On August 7, Minister Anutin presented the first batch of cannabis oil produced by a state-owned pharmaceutical company during a press conference. As dual Public Health Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, Anutin will also supervise the Ministries of Tourism and Sports and Transport. The Council met with DPM Anutin on August 14th and he spoke of his interest in fostering a new spirit of collaboration between the Ministry of Public Health and the private sector based on trust and mutually beneficial objectives.
Marijuana Legalization Makes Strides Across ASEAN
Marijuana legalization is becoming a popular policy topic across ASEAN, with countries such as Thailand and the Philippines bringing marijuana to the forefront of political attention. Thailand is the first nation in ASEAN to legalize medical marijuana, while opponents of the war on drugs in the Philippines and Malaysia have encouraged openness to medical marijuana legalization.
The government of Thailand first legalized medical cannabis in February, while distribution of medical cannabis oil to hospitals began on August 7. The Government Pharmaceutical Organization (GPO) oversaw the delivery of 5-ml bottles to the Public Health Ministry to distribute to hospitals for 4,000 registered patients. An estimated 6,000 bottles of cannabis oil will be distributed by the end of this month with the further hope to distribute 1 million bottles within the next 6 months. The GPO will start planting the second crop of cannabis by the end of August with the aim to expand greenhouse cultivation by 2020. Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul has additionally worked to expand medical marijuana accessibility and usage by reinstating the legal status of 3,000 folk practitioners, setting criteria to allow cannabis-mixed medicinal formulas to be used in treatment or research, as well as by setting up guidelines under which Thai and traditional medicine practitioners may use cannabis-mixed medicines. Anutin also aims to place marijuana on Thailand’s National List of Essential Medicines, creating more accessibility to citizens and coverage for use under universal healthcare.
Meanwhile, the Philippines passed a bill in January to expand research and access to medical cannabis. The government has made a shift from strong anti-drug laws to encouraging medical marijuana research and expansion. Recently, Isabela representative Antonio T. Albano has refiled House Bill 279, the Philippines Medical Cannabis Compassionate Act, to encourage medical marijuana legalization and consumption while opposing recreational marijuana. The bill would allow the Department of Health to issue identification cards to medical cannabis patients and caregivers, while the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency or the Bureau of Customs would provide oversight.
Malaysian Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad has stated that decriminalization will be a “critical step towards achieving a national drug policy that puts science and public health before punishment and incarceration,” a hint at Malaysia’s move towards more liberal marijuana laws. Malaysia not long ago imposed death sentences for drug traffickers, but similar to other ASEAN nations, sees scientific benefits to medical cannabis legalization and may soon decriminalize some forms of cannabis use.
Innovative Healthcare Financing in ASEAN
Recently, ASEAN Member States have been placing healthcare and health related funding at the forefront of policy priorities. Zambo Sur hospital in the Philippines has implemented No Balance Billing (NBB) in conjunction with the Universal Health Care program signed into law by President Duterte in February to provide healthcare coverage to all Filipinos. The NBB ensures that citizens will not be charged fees in excess of PhilHealth coverage in government hospitals, something many Filipinos had expressed concerned over. However, patients must be enrolled in PhilHealth before being admitted to the hospital or participate in the point-of-care automatic PhilHealth enrollment to receive no-fee benefits. The Philippines Department of Budget and Management has also been active in increasing funding for infrastructure and medical equipment and recently disbursed US$45 million to the Department of Health’s central office.
Thailand’s National Health Security Office (NHSO) has been utilizing the universal healthcare scheme to urge citizens to get tested for hepatitis B and C in coordination with the Public Health Ministry’s Department of Disease Control and the Thai Association. Hepatitis B and C tests were provided at 79 hospitals from August 5-9, all covered under the universal healthcare scheme. Also covered are screening for hepatitis B in pregnant women, treatments for those diagnosed with hepatitis B, and vaccines for hepatitis B for children. Hepatitis C coverage is limited to high risks groups including drug abusers and those receiving HIV-screening tests.
Cambodia’s Council of Ministers recently approved a draft law on August 2 to expand the National Social Security Fund to cover pensions, healthcare, health & safety at work, and unemployment benefits. This is a positive step towards Cambodia’s commitment to provide universal health coverage by 2025, which previously had seen little progress. Moving forward, members of ASEAN may continue to increase public funding for healthcare services to encourage social wellbeing.
Indonesia National Public Procurement Agency (LKPP) Regulation No.11/ 2018 on Electronic Catalogue (E-Catalogue)
Following our previous Focus Group Discussion on Government Procurement for Healthcare in the Era of Universal Healthcare Coverage (UHC) with the Indonesia Ministry of Health and the National Public Procurement Agency (LKPP), the Council learned that LKPP is open to revising the Regulation No. 11/ 2018 on E-Catalogue (available here). The Council plans to provide joint submission with the European Chamber of Commerce (EuroCham) in regards to industry inputs. Please provide comments using this document to Steven Gunawan at firstname.lastname@example.org and Ayu Nadia at email@example.com by COB Monday, August 19.
Health & Life Sciences Statistics in ASEAN
The Council’s Health & Life Sciences Team is currently working on an internal project, collating key statistics for the healthcare sector in ASEAN. This will be useful for the Council’s leaders and mission delegates during our various health & life sciences related industry missions, workshops, roundtables, and position papers. Please review the current work in progress linked here, and let us know if there are any other key indicators and/or sources/references that should be included. Please contact Sunita Kapoor (firstname.lastname@example.org) for a discussion.
USABC Every Woman Every Child (EWEC) Commitment
Since the start of 2019, the Council has continued to further its commitment to EWEC to promote the goals and values of the EWEC Global Strategy, as well as discuss the Council’s pledge to highlight the great work many of our members are already doing around ASEAN to improve the lives of women, children and adolescents. As part of our commitment, we are creating a website where we will feature members’ work/projects related to maternal and child health in the region. Please visit the working website to see current submissions here. If you are interested in sharing your work, please review the submission form here and send all materials to Hai Pham at email@example.com at your earliest convenience.
|IN THIS UPDATE|
Social fund to cover pensions | Phnom Penh Post The Phnom Penh Post 5th Aug 2019
Meiji Seika Pharma to launch two products from Santen Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd. in Indonesia - ANTARA News Antara News 7th Aug 2019
childhood obesity reaches alarming proportions in Indonesia Antara News 5th Aug 2019
Fifty per cent of those with NCD unaware they have the disease Borneo Post Online 6th Aug 2019
A green solution to a plastic problem The Myanmar Times 2nd Aug 2019
DBM releases funds for health infra, medical equipment Manila Bulletin Business 14th Aug 2019
Zambo Sur hospital implements ‘no balance billing’ policy Philippine News Agency 7th Aug 2019
Capitol wants dengue measures Sunstar 7th Aug 2019
Albano refiles bill on medical marijuana Business World 5th Aug 2019
A digital platform for patients' healthcare needs The Business Times 5th Aug 2019
Thailand's National Health Offers Free Hepatitis B and C Tests CTN News 4th Aug 2019
Anutin loosens 3 regulations to enable traditional and folk practitioners to prescribe cannabis The Nation Thailand 7th Aug 2019
HCM City speeds up work on smart health en route to becoming smart city Vietnam News Agency 14th Aug 2019
Health ministry instructs healthcare providers to prepare for coming heatwave Vietnam News Agency 7th Aug 2019
Hà Nội to work harder to boost population quality Vietnam News Agency 7th Aug 2019
Local public hospitals fail to lure doctors despite support policies Vietnam News Agency 3rd Aug 2019