Veterinarians have attributed the increase in veterinary cost to new drug regulations that had limited the number of veterinary medicines available in Malaysia.
Malaysian Small Animal Veterinary Association president (MSAVA) Dr G. Gopinathan said the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency (NPRA) had introduced stringent regulations that cut down the number of drugs being brought into the country.
“All of our veterinary drugs are imported, mostly from Europe, Australia, America and some from India,” he said.
“Most of the drugs used to be from India, which was the cheaper option. But now there are a lot more restrictions,” he said.
“For example, they need to conduct tests on how the drugs react to Malaysia’s humidity and temperature to make sure the drugs are stable in our climate,” he said.
“But because our market is so small, some companies would not do the testing.
“So, we have difficulties in bringing the veterinary drugs into Malaysia,” said Dr Gopinathan.
NPRA is the main agency that regulates and controls veterinary drugs. The Department of Veterinary Services (DVS) regulates the drugs used in animal feed, while the Pesticide Board controls some of the chemicals used as disinfectant.
DVS director-general Datuk Dr Quaza Nizamuddin Hassan Nizam said all drugs must be registered by a licensed local agent company with NPRA.
He said the pricing for veterinary drugs and products are regulated by the Domestic Trades, Co-operatives and Consumerism Ministry through a consumer price guide.
MSAVA council member Dr Amilan Sivagurunathan said the Malaysian market was seen as one of the smallest in South-East Asia.
“If the volume doesn’t justify bringing the drug in, they’re not going to do so,” he said.
As of March 2018, there are 729 veterinary drugs registered in Malaysia.
“We used to have 5,000 drugs,” said Dr Amilan.
“If you compare the veterinary drugs available across the border in Singapore and Thailand, we probably only have a fraction of what these two countries have,” he said.
Since all veterinary drugs are imported, Dr Amilan said Malaysians would have to contend with the high exchange rates as well.
Pet owner W. Muthiah has a dog diagnosed with Cushing’s syndrome, a disease that produces excess hormones from the adrenal glands. The dog requires daily medication.
She said the “branded” version of the drug costs RM700 for 30 tablets, while the generic version costs RM300 for 30 tablets.
“However, if I buy the generic drug in Singapore, it costs RM80 for 30 tablets,” she said.
Dr Amilan acknowledged that Malaysia does not have many generic drugs.
“Because we are already struggling to get drugs registered, you can’t get generics in.
“They need to be registered too,” he said.
Dr Amilan said the new regulations had improved safety and scrutiny, adding however that over-regulation could be a disadvantage.
“For example, insulin is an essential drug for pets.
“We see a lot of pets with diabetes today. But we don’t have a veterinary insulin registered in Malaysia,” he said.
Veterinary insulin is formulated for dogs and cats.
Sometimes, Dr Amilan said veterinarians had no choice but to use human insulin.
“But the results may not be as good. Unfortunately, these are the things we have to accept,” he said.
If more veterinary drugs are registered in Malaysia, Dr Amilan said that veterinarians and patients would have more options.
“We have to constantly work with the NPRA board to improve our drug registration, to get more drugs in, and try get them to not over-regulate their procedures,” he said.