Many Singaporeans travel to Malaysia to buy cheap medicine, especially prescription drugs, that are much more expensive or harder to obtain in their own country. But why is medicine so cheap in Malaysia compared to Singapore and other countries? And what are the risks and benefits of buying medicine from across the Causeway?
The Reasons for the Price Difference
The price difference between medicine in Malaysia and Singapore is mainly due to the following factors:
- Currency exchange rate: The Malaysian ringgit is weaker than the Singapore dollar, which means that Singaporeans can buy more with their money in Malaysia. The current exchange rate is about 3.8 ringgit to one Singapore dollar.
- Competition among pharmacies: Malaysia has a large number of pharmacies, both independent and chain, that compete with each other for customers and sales. This drives down the prices of medicine, as pharmacies offer discounts and promotions to attract buyers. Some pharmacies also import cheaper generic drugs from countries like India and China, which further lowers the costs.
- Population size and demand: Malaysia has a larger population than Singapore, which means that there is a higher demand and consumption of medicine in the country. This creates economies of scale and reduces the per-unit cost of medicine. Moreover, Malaysia has a lower average income than Singapore, which means that most people cannot afford expensive medicine, and hence the prices have to be kept low to cater to the mass market.
The Risks and Benefits
Buying medicine from Malaysia has some risks and benefits for Singaporeans, such as:
- Quality and safety issues: Buying medicine from Malaysia may expose Singaporeans to quality and safety issues, such as counterfeit, expired, or contaminated drugs, that could harm their health and well-being. Some pharmacies in Malaysia may not have proper storage and handling practices, or may sell drugs that are not approved or regulated by the authorities. Some drugs may also have different ingredients, dosages, or side effects than the ones sold in Singapore.
- Legal and ethical issues: Buying medicine from Malaysia may also involve legal and ethical issues, such as breaking the law, violating the intellectual property rights, or undermining the professional standards. Some drugs may require a prescription in Singapore, but not in Malaysia, which could lead to misuse or abuse. Some drugs may also be patented or trademarked in Singapore, but not in Malaysia, which could infringe the rights of the original manufacturers. Some drugs may also be prescribed or dispensed by unqualified or unlicensed personnel, which could compromise the quality of care.
- Cost savings and convenience: Buying medicine from Malaysia may offer cost savings and convenience for Singaporeans, especially for those who need long-term or chronic medication, or who have difficulty accessing or affording medicine in their own country. Some drugs may be cheaper by up to 80 per cent in Malaysia than in Singapore, which could save a lot of money for the buyers. Some drugs may also be easier to obtain in Malaysia than in Singapore, which could save time and hassle for the buyers.
- Choice and availability: Buying medicine from Malaysia may also provide choice and availability for Singaporeans, especially for those who are looking for alternative or complementary medicine, or who have specific or rare conditions. Some drugs may not be available or registered in Singapore, but may be found in Malaysia, which could offer more options and solutions for the buyers. Some drugs may also be more suitable or effective for certain individuals or groups, such as ethnic minorities or seniors, who may have different needs or preferences than the mainstream market.
Medicine is so cheap in Malaysia compared to Singapore and other countries, because of the currency exchange rate, the competition among pharmacies, and the population size and demand. Buying medicine from Malaysia has some risks and benefits for Singaporeans, such as quality and safety issues, legal and ethical issues, cost savings and convenience, and choice and availability. Singaporeans who buy medicine from Malaysia should be aware and cautious of the potential pitfalls and problems, and should consult their doctors and pharmacists before doing so.