Based on advance estimates from the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Singapore’s GDP grew by 1.8% in 2016. While Q4 2016 saw a strong improvement in manufacturing and services, overall annual growth for the year was the nation’s weakest since 2009.
On the healthcare front, several important changes have taken place. The Health Sciences Authority, the governing body for national health and safety, initiated the transfer of existing regulations on medicinal products to the new Health Product Act on November 1, 2016.
Changes impacting the industry include mandatory licenses for import and wholesale activities carried out by the Marketing Authorisation Holder, which were previously exempted. By introducing the “Responsible Person” requirement for these licenses, the Health Sciences Authority is seeking to ensure that import and distribution activities for prescription and pharmacy-only drugs are overseen by Singapore-registered pharmacists.
Following the changes, the sale and marketing of medicinal products (now known as therapeutic products) no longer require a Health Sciences Authority advertisement permit. Nevertheless, such activities will still need to comply with existing guidelines. The Authority has also introduced further corrective measures on contraventions on top of current penalties, with industry players having to step up their vigilance to ensure marketing compliance.
In addition, the Ministry of Health announced a reorganisation of the public healthcare system. The six existing regional health systems are to be consolidated and merged into three clusters: National Healthcare Group; SingHealth; and National Singapore GDP growth weakens in 2016 Taiwan Economic momentum returns views from the region University Health System. Polyclinics will be reorganised under these clusters. Each cluster will have a fuller range of capabilities and facilities across different care settings, comprising of general hospitals, community hospitals, primary care centres and national specialty centres.
This strategic move is aimed at meeting future healthcare needs, which will increase with Singapore’s aging population. The reorganisation is targeted to be completed by early 2018 and it remains to be seen how the move will affect existing procurement practices in public healthcare institutions in relation to drugs, medical devices and other services.