PETALING JAYA: Pharmacists are still feeling the pinch despite the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry’s assurance that there is an adequate supply of Covid-19 self-test kits in the market.

Pharmacy chains and stores in the Klang Valley said self-test kit stocks are only expected to return to normal in a few weeks.

Caring Pharmacy Retail Management Sdn Bhd’s chain is experiencing a shortage, said its head of procurement, health, beauty and own brands category Foo Fung Jiun.

“Our stock is running low due to the panic buying last week. Stock is coming in by batches in the next one to three weeks,” he said, adding the shortage is possibly due to business owners buying the kits in bulk for their employees.

As the demand for the home kit increased, he said some suppliers took advantage by increasing the price by between 10% and 15%.

“We have had suppliers increasing prices since last week, claiming supply is limited,” Foo added.

Checks on pharmacies in Kuala Lumpur and Subang Jaya also indicated a disruption to the supply chain.

“The last two weeks, our pharmacy was supposed to receive new shipments of self-test kits, but it’s been delayed until today,” said Ismawati Ismail, who works at the AA Pharmacy store in Taman Desa, Kuala Lumpur.

She said the only type of brands left on the shelves were the more expensive ones costing RM9.90.

“Customers who buy in bulk prefer to get the cheaper brands that cost RM4.90 per box, but these have been sold out and haven’t been restocked in the past few weeks,” she added.

A pharmacist at the Well Love Pharmacy in Taman Desa said while the number of kits in the store is still adequate, there is indeed a disruption in supply due to logistical issues.

“We were told that the supply is disrupted because there is congestion in Port Klang,” she said.

A woman wanting to be known only as Emily, who works at Health Lane Family Pharmacy, said that there is panic buying going on.

“A lot of customers are stocking up – even though stocks are still available, demand is moving very fast, and the supply has to chase that demand,” she said, adding that her pharmacy expects its supply to stabilise only by mid-March.

Suzane, a pharmacist in Subang Jaya, said that there has been a shortage of self-test kits since Chinese New Year.

“During those two weeks, we really couldn’t find supplies and we had to sell whatever stock we had in our pharmacy,” she added.

Malaysian Pharmacists Society (MPS) president Amrahi Buang said the supply situation in pharmacies has improved compared with last week.

“The MPS is glad to finally hear a response from the ministry,” he added.

Amrahi also brought up the issue of the quality of self-test kits, as there have been cases of false positives and false negatives reported by the public.

“This will affect follow-up actions to curb the Omicron wave. We have to wait for the Medical Devices Authority (MDA) for its response to this,” he added.