The Health July/August 2022 | Page 9

| Cover Story |



Panic buying and hoarding

Norhaliza said the PSP had also engaged with the relevant pharmaceutical industries stakeholders and identified the following contributing factors , which include :
i .
A sudden demand for fever , cough and cold medicines due to the Covid-19 and HFMD cases
ii . Preference for a certain brand , although there are other brands available in the market iii . Delay in the supply of active pharmaceutical ingredients ( API ), excipients , analytical reference standards , and packing materials due to logistic challenges caused by the Ukraine war and China lockdown restriction iv . Shortage of human resources in terms of foreign workers v . The closure of the main solvents ’ manufacturer ( e . g . chloroform spirit , denature alcohol , absolute alcohol , alcohol ) by the Department of Environment due to a river pollution issue . The solvent is required for the manufacturing process of pharmaceutical products
Efforts to mitigate the current shortage
Based on the media statement by the MoH on June 13 , 2022 , the short-term measures that could be taken by private healthcare facilities to tackle the current medicine shortages include :
i .
Private healthcare facilities could obtain the stock from government facilities and replace the product after the new stock arrives .
ii . Patients from private healthcare facilities may be referred to government health facilities . iii . Patients from private healthcare facilities may approach the community pharmacy by showing their medication prescriptions . On June 16 , 2022 , a guideline regarding the supply of medicine to private facilities during emergencies , crises , and disasters was issued to MoH facilities , should they receive any request for medicines stock from private healthcare facilities .
According to Norhaliza , the task force has been identifying products reported to be in shortage and the stock levels at the warehouse .
“ We have also identified the products ’ alternative list and potential distributors for these alternatives according to the region ; Klang Valley , Northern , Eastern and
Amrahi Buang
Datuk Dr Kuljit
Datuk Dr Marimuthu Nadason
Norhaliza A Halim
The government needs a master plan to attract pharmaceutical companies to set up manufacturing facilities in Malaysia . Such a move would be a crucial security measure to prevent a drug shortage crisis should another pandemic outbreak or war .”
— Dr Marimuthu
The current medication shortage is further worsened by patients and consumers resorting to panic buying . They just buy and keep them in case they need them . In the end , much of this medication goes to waste as it is usually never consumed by its expiry date .
Federation of Malaysian Consumers Associations ( FOMCA ) President Datuk Dr Marimuthu Nadason said panic buying is usually influenced by individuals ’ perception of the threat of the health crisis , shortage of products , and fear of the unknown . This is caused by negative emotions and uncertainty about drugs and the stockpiling of certain medications in households , amplified the problem . The coping behaviour views panic buying as relieving anxiety and regaining control over the crisis .
He said there were also social and psychological factors that account for the influence of an individual ’ s social network . Panic buying observed product shortages preparedness behaviours or emotions such as fear and worry .
“ The public should not panic buy , which leads to unnecessarily hoarding medications , which are not immediately needed , to avoid aggravating the situation .
“ Shortages are especially costly for the vulnerable for whom shopping can be challenging ; hence policy interventions may be necessary to address the detrimental impact of panic buying on them .”
However , he said there were no clear guidelines concerning how people should react during drug / medicine shortages regarding keeping their supply of drugs without affecting the volume of drugs in the supply chain and increasing the risk of stock-outs or keeping too many drugs at home .
“ The public should not panic buy and unnecessarily hoard medications , which are not immediately needed , to avoid aggravating the situation .”
He added : “ Medical product shortages created by panic buying may present opportunities for fraudsters to “ fill the gaps ” as buyers diversify their sourcing beyond their pre-existing networks .
“ I urge the authorities to increase market surveillance and more support from law enforcement agencies to identify fraudsters .”
Association of Private Hospitals Malaysia ( APHM ) President Datuk Dr Kuljit shared the same sentiment : “ There is no need to panic . Lifesaving medications , such as for hypertension and diabetes , are not affected . Only the common cough and cold medicines and antibiotics are in shortage . Nevertheless , it is still manageable . “ One or two facilities have raised the shortage issue into a panic state . If they ask for help from the relevant parties , including APHM , we are willing to help discuss with manufacturers and procure alternative medications .
He believes that this shortage is a one-off situation resulting from coming out of the pandemic .
“ Let ’ s watch and see . Everything will likely return to normal after a month or two . However , if the shortage persists , we will need to give manufacturers better estimates .
“ Manufacturers can produce the required amount of medications . While there may be some shortages of raw materials , I believe they could overcome that .”