Global Health Asia-Pacific March 2022 March 2022 - Page 42

Malaysia

Malaysia healthcare travel plans to return to former glory

It ’ ll take time for the industry to rebound , but prospects look bright
“ Malaysia has a significant edge as it is the first country in the world to have received conditional approval for the use of ravidasvir in combination with sofosbuvir to treat hepatitis C .

The government agency promoting healthcare travel to Malaysia expects a rebound in the number of international patients as the Southeast Asian nation will open up its borders in April , with travellers vaccinated against COVID-19 being exempt from quarantine and all visitors having to get tested for the disease two days before departure and in the 24 hours after their arrival in the country .

The optimism is backed by a comprehensive strategy to attract back the millions of overseas patients who visited Malaysia before the pandemic shut down cross-border travel . In 2019 , about 1.2 million patients had sought care in the country .
“ To ensure sustainability of the healthcare travel industry , market diversification , targeted niche offering , and market-specific strategies are required to localise the medical offerings required from each targeted market ,” Mohd Daud Mohd Arif , CEO of the Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council ( MHTC ), told Global Health Asia-Pacific .
The new plan will continue the country ’ s campaigns from previous years , such as promoting Malaysia as the Fertility and Cardiology Hubs of Asia and as a Cancer Care Centre of Excellence , but the MHTC will also begin positioning the country as the Hepatitis C Treatment Hub of Asia and a top destination for retirement .
“ Malaysia has a significant edge as it is the first country in the world to have received conditional approval for the use of ravidasvir in combination with sofosbuvir to treat hepatitis C . This has poised Malaysia to be the Hepatitis C Treatment Hub of Asia , offering hepatitis C patients a treatment with a cure rate of 97 percent and cost reduction of 95 percent ,” Mohd Daud said .
The clinical trial that tested the combination treatment was run by the Geneva-based non-profit Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative ( DNDi ) and sponsored by the Malaysian Ministry of Health , with the condition that a 12-week treatment would cost patients only US $ 300 , a fraction of the original price tag for sofosbuvir alone , which stands at about US $ 80,000 .
In Malaysia ’ s public hospitals , sofosbuvir treatments have been available for US $ 300 since 2017 when the country used a generic version of the drug without the consent of Gilead , the patent holder , and through compulsory licensing , a way to ensure the essential therapy was affordable for those who needed it and an option allowed by the World Trade Organization for public health emergencies . But the country later struck an agreement with Gilead to also use the drug in private hospitals where international patients are usually treated and can receive the new combination therapy .
“ The offering is also in line with WHO ’ s mission to reduce new viral hepatitis infections by 90 percent and reduce death by viral hepatitis by 65 percent by 2030 ,” he said .
The WHO estimates that globally about 354 million people live with hepatitis B or C , while 4.5 million premature deaths could be prevented by 2030 with appropriate strategies . Malaysia is at the forefront of the initiative and is on track to eliminate hepatitis C by 2030 , said Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah , the country ’ s Director General of Health , according to Bernama . Key measures include stepping up screening for hepatitis C and offering affordable treatments .
“ This combination of increasing access to testing and to cure is fundamental to our efforts to reach
Malaysia aims to be the Hepatitis C Treatment Hub of Asia
40 MARCH 2022 GlobalHealthAsiaPacific . com