National Kidney Foundation launches Red Bean Assistance Program to support patients in need

Petaling Jaya, July 25, 2019 – The number of patients with chronic kidney diseases (CKD) are on the rise in Malaysia, and they are looking at a possible lifetime of costly dialysis treatment. Among the biggest issues plaguing patients of CKD is anemia, hence, National Kidney Foundation of Malaysia (NKF) today announced the Red Bean Assistance Program to help relieve the economic burden of CKD patients with anemia, especially from the low-income group. National Kidney Foundation collaborated with Roche Malaysia, a market leader in renal anemia to support these patients in need. This program will be rolled out in Klang Valley starting August 1, 2019, and subsequently nationwide, starting January 1, 2020.

Prevalence of CKD in Malaysia has increased from 9.07%1 to 15.5%2 with almost 40,000 patients on dialysis in 20163 . Anemia is present in 75.8% of pre-dialysis Malaysian patients4 and it is more prominent as the disease progresses. Anemia is a condition of reduction of hemoglobin, or red blood cells, in the blood. Our kidneys actually make an important hormone called erythropoietin (EPO) that tells the body to make red blood cells. However, the level of EPO is reduced when our kidneys are diseased or damaged. Low EPO levels leads to the development of anemia. What makes matters worse is that chronic kidney disease patients also lose blood during hemodialysis treatments which further reduces the hemoglobin level5 .

Datuk Seri Dr. Haji Dzulkefly bin Ahmad, Minister of Health welcomed the corporate responsibility initiative by NKF and Roche Malaysia. “The well-being of kidney patients cannot be taken lightly. The Red Bean Assistance Program will help meet the needs of kidney patients especially since this is a growing issue around the world, including Malaysia”, he added. “I am pleased to see that the Roche Cares innovative co-payment program has now been extended for kidney patients,” said Dzulkefly. He said more partnerships between funders and pharmaceutical players in the private sector are needed to reduce the public sector’s healthcare burden.

“Kidney patients need long-term treatment and the cost to sustain dialysis is high, especially for those with renal anaemia. While the burden is difficult to bear for most patients, the hardest hit are those from the low-income group. NKF provides support and treatment at our 28 centres nationwide with more than 1,700 dialysis patients to manage. On this note, we are glad to have Roche Malaysia as our partner to reach out to more patients beyond those currently receiving treatment at NKF,” said Dato Dr Zaki Morad, Chairman at NKF.

To manage the health complications as a result of chronic kidney disease, each patient pays more than RM25,000 a year for treatment on average in Malaysia, according to the NKF6 .

Dato Dr. Zaki further commented, “Through this innovative, co-payment program, the cost of the patient’s ESA treatment is co-shared between the patient, NKF and Roche.”

Also present at the event was Mr. Lance Duan, General Manager of Roche Malaysia, who said, “In Malaysia, Roche has a strong reputation as a market leader not only in oncological treatment but in chronic conditions, like renal anemia as well.” He further explained that the Roche Cares program is a co-payment funding model introduced at the end of 2018 to reduce the financial hurdle of breast cancer patients in accessing innovative medicines. “Basically, 2 the model brings together various funders and Roche to share patients’ burden of treatment cost,” he added.

Under the Red Bean Assistance Program, Roche Malaysia and the NKF will alleviate the financial burden for CKD patients by providing them with the treatment of an erythropoietinstimulating agent (ESA) that signals the bone marrow produce more red blood cells7 . This innovative and once monthly medication simplifies renal anemia management for the patient8.

The name ‘Red Bean’ under the Red Bean Assistance Program was selected for its visual resemblance in shape and colour to a kidney. This program is expected to benefit more than 600 patients for the first year and 1,000 for the next 2 years, making it a total of more than 1,600 patients within the first 3 years. Patients who are currently receiving treatment outside of the NKF and who require additional (ESA) to optimize their treatment are eligible to apply.

Chronic kidney disease patients (on dialysis & not on dialysis) from private or public treatment centres can apply for the Red Bean Assistance Program through any NKF centres around the country. For more information on the application process, please visitor call NKF at 03-79540052 / 03-79540119.


  1. Hooi LS et al. A population-based study measuring the prevalence of chronic kidney disease among adults in West Malaysia

  2. Sunita B. Is Chronic Kidney Disease on the rise in Malaysia? Findings from a nationwide study (Poster presented during World Congress of Nephrology, Melbourne in April 2019)

  3. Malaysia National Renal Registry 2016

  4. Salman M et al. Prevalence and management of anemia in pre-dialysis Malaysian patients: a hospital-based study

  5. Anemia in Chronic Kidney Disease:

  6. Sourced from New Straits Time:

  7. Silverberg DS et al (2011). The role of erythropoiesis stimulating agents and intravenous (IV) iron in the cardio renal anemia syndrome Heart Fail Rec 16:609-614

  8. MIRACEL Study. Flisher et al. Current Medical Research and Opinion 26(5): 1083-89

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