The Malaysian economy grew 4.2% in Q1 2016, its lowest growth since the financial crisis of 2008. Despite sustaining four quarters of deceleration, the figure beat market expectations of a 4.1% growth rate indicating still-robust growth for the country despite a broad slowdown across emerging economies.

Malaysia’s economy continues to be resilient as it is supported by a high labor force participation rate and positive employment growth. The currency has recovered slightly and the outlook remains positive in view of recovering oil prices, the country’s sustained current account surplus, and an intact fiscal deficit target.

The Health Ministry is implementing the Pharmacy Information System to provide a better and more efficient means of managing the increasing number of patients and medical prescriptions filled at hospital pharmacies. The system will help to monitor medical supplies in ministry facilities, medicine, and non-medicine inventory management and ensure the medicines used are of good quality, safe and effective.

The system will be utilized at most of the 1,300 health ministry facilities, which include 137 hospitals, 802 clinics and 141 district health offices. The recent National Health and Morbidity Survey revealed that the number of Malaysians suffering from non-communicable diseases, such as high cholesterol levels and obesity, had increased significantly from 2006 to 2015.

The 2015 survey reported that nearly half of the population aged 18 and above, or 9.6 million Malaysians, had high cholesterol levels. Meanwhile, 38.6% (an estimated 7.8 million people) were unaware that they had high cholesterol. The study also found that obesity among children doubled for the same period. In 2015, 17.7% or 3.3 million Malaysians above 18 years were obese while 30% or 5.6 million were overweight. The Health Ministry has set up a panel to improve the situation. Overall, the pharmaceutical market reported negative growth at -1.32% for Q1 2016 compared with the same period last year, according to the Pharmaceutical Association of Malaysia (PhAMA). The market recorded sales of RM895 million (US$221.3 million), with ethical sales dipping by -1.61%. The OTC market saw marginal growth of 0.34%. Brunei’s economy contracted 0.6% in 2015 due to a slowdown in the services sector, including hotel trade, transport and business services, and the decline in oil production. According to the International Monetary Fund, Brunei’s economy will contract by 2% in 2016 compared with an October 2015 forecast of 3.5% expansion. The government is trying to diversify the economy by using oil revenues to invest in non-oil industries, such as Islamic banking, and by attracting foreign direct investment.

The healthcare budget for fiscal year 2016/2017 has been reduced by 9.2%. A total of BN$349.5 million (US$259.6 million) has been allocated, representing a decrease of BN$35.6 million (US$26.4 million) from the previous allocation. For 2016/2017, BN$47.6 million (US$35.4 million) will be spent on purchases of medicine and BN$26.5 million (US$19.7 million) used for medical supplies and services. The Ministry of Health’s long-term Vision 2035, “Together Towards A Healthy Nation”, contains three areas of strategic focus over the next five years: emphasis on the promotion of health as “everyone’s business”; prevention and control of non-communicable diseases; and consolidation and realignment of healthcare services to enhance value to customers while preventing wastage.