A non-profit drug research and development organisation says the country should collaborate with its neighbours if it wants to reduce its dependence on other countries to produce and supply medical products.
The Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) said the Covid-19 pandemic had revealed how difficult it was for low and middle-income countries to gain access to vaccines at the peak of the pandemic as it was “hoarded” by rich countries, which were producing the drugs.
DNDi Southeast Asia Office regional director Jean-Michel Piedagnel said to overcome similar situations, Malaysia could collaborate with neighbouring countries or nations with similar health issues to carry out research and development (R&D) and create their own treatment.
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“For a small country like Malaysia, it could collaborate on developing drugs to treat a disease that is commonly found in the region, like dengue.
“Why should you wait for other countries to find a solution when you have your own expertise and a better understanding of the disease,” he told FMT.
Putrajaya had procured Covid-19 vaccines from China, the US and Russia. It was later reported that the Institute for Medical Research was collaborating with Universiti Malaya to develop a Covid-19 vaccine.
Piedagnel said DNDi had launched the Dengue Alliance last year to make it a priority to work with its local partners in dengue endemic countries such as Malaysia, Thailand, India and Brazil to produce data for clinical trials.
He said its collaboration with Malaysia and Thailand, had narrowed down three compounds to be repurposed from existing direct-acting antivirals and two host-directed therapies (HDT) treatment for dengue. However, he could not disclose the details yet.
Meanwhile, DNDi executive director Dr Luis Pizarro echoed a similar sentiment on regional alliances when it came to the drugs and vaccine sector.
He said that countries could collaborate regionally to purchase drugs in bulk and negotiate a cheaper price.
“It would be easier to persuade pharmaceutical companies to produce drugs when there is a bulk purchase.”
Pizarro added that as there was not much profit to be made in producing a small supply of generic drugs, a regional collaboration would ensure volume, which in turn would make it profitable for companies to produce the drugs.