Innovative treatment has proven to be beneficial in terms of improving the survival rate of lung cancer patients. However, it is currently only accessible in private hospitals. More can be done to increase accessibility.

According to a report released by the Malaysian Ministry of Health (MOH) and the World Health Organization (WHO), the economic burden of lung cancer in the country is estimated at RM 4.63 billion – the highest compared to other cancer types32. From a macroeconomic point of view, the increasing prevalence of lung cancer contributes to economic loss because of reduced labor productivity and rising health care costs to treat lung patients. Not only does lung cancer affect the lives of patients, it can also hamper the nation’s social and economic development.

Greater access to innovative medicine can help to improve lung cancer patients’ quality of life and prolong their survival, and hence be beneficial in:

Reducing national cancer burden

The economic case needs to be assessed – by balancing the expenditure to pay for the cost of the innovative treatment vs the savings in terms of less hospitalization and care required for the survivor who remains well.

Improving productivity

The financial costs arising from productivity losses – due to absenteeism (for loved ones who need to care for the patient as well), presenteeism, and early retirement due to premature deaths – entail tangible costs to the economy. Access to innovative treatment will help to turn this around.

Creating a more inclusive nation

It is important that quality healthcare is accessible to all as part of making Malaysia an inclusive nation. By expanding the access to innovative cancer treatment for those in need, we can help to further drive this important societal need.

Improving quality of life

In addition to providing a better quality of life for the patient, access to innovative treatment can also help in improving the wellbeing of the patient and their family.

Self-pay

Malaysia has a robust health care system with generally a good universal health coverage for its population. Those seeking treatment in the public institutions are generally cheaper due to the Malaysian subsidization program but have limited access to new innovative treatment due to the treatment cost. Those patients seeking innovative treatment (which are only available in the private hospital) have to pay it out of their own pocket at a costly price.

Nonetheless, patients can look into their employment provident fund (EPF) savings to help cover the cost of treatment. Upon successful application, EPF allows members to withdraw from their Account 2 to help cover medical expenses for certain illnesses including cancer33. Learn more here.

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Insurance

There are many types of insurance that can help patients to cover their hospitalization, treatment, and recovery cost. Although having medical insurance may alleviate cancer treatment‐related financial difficulties, limited policy coverage for cancer care and suboptimal reimbursement policies may be an issue faced by many insurance holders. Not all insurance policies cover the cost of new and innovative cancer treatment. Learn more about the different insurance types from RinggitPlus or iMoney.

Access via Government

Treatments listed in the Malaysian Ministry of Health’s (MOH) Medicines Formulary are provided for and funded by the government in MOH health facilities. Approximately 20-25% of innovative treatments – that have been proven to raise the standards of cancer care – are currently not available in MOH hospitals34. Ministry of Education hospitals and private hospitals have their own individual formularies.

NGO

For patients whose only hope for survival is to receive innovative cancer treatment and require financial assistance for them, they may reach out to the National Cancer Society Malaysia or MAKNA (National Cancer Council Malaysia) for financial support.

Co-payment

According to a survey by the Galen Centre for Health & Social Policy, the majority of Malaysians are willing to bear some of their cancer treatment expenses instead of solely relying on the public health care system35. The Malaysian government may consider offering new and innovative cancer treatment in public hospitals to those in need on a co-payment basis.

Dedicated cancer fund

Local advocates called for the government to start a fund to finance new cancer medicines that are unavailable in public hospitals, similar to that in the UK36. The UK’s Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF) is a source of funding for cancer drugs which takes a new approach to the appraisal and funding of cancer drugs in England. The new approach provides access to promising new treatments, via managed access arrangement, while further evidence is collected to address clinical uncertainty; as well as interim funding for all newly recommended cancer drugs, giving patients access to these treatments many months earlier than before.

Doctors’ Voices
Professor Dr. Liam Chong Kin
Consultant Chest Physician
“Having access to life-saving cancer treatments should be a right and not a privilege. It is important that quality healthcare is accessible to all for Malaysia to become a more inclusive nation.”
Dr. Azura Rozila Ahmad
Consultant Medical Oncologist
“Improving access to innovative treatment is a matter that requires more thorough involvement from different stakeholders.”