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Deputy PM wants urgent drug price watchdog

Update: March, 16/2013 - 09:36
A pharmaceutical production line of the Phu Yen Pharmaceutical (Pymepharco) Company in Phu Yen Province. The health sector has been urged to improve state management of drug price and trading and distribution and reservation. – VNA/VNS Photo Duong Ngoc

HA NOI (VNS)— The establishment of an inter-ministerial team to look into drug pricing and manage production and retailing should be sped up, said Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Thien Nhan.

This follows the revelation that many price management violations had been found in hospitals.

The Ministry of Health regulates that State hospitals must buy their medicines under the tender process for a year's supply.

However, due to poor management or collusion with drug companies, different prices are being paid in different provinces.

Some companies have even worked with hospitals to greatly push up the prices of drugs sold to patients.

Nhan said the team would ensure transparency and effectiveness of Governmental management of the drug sector.

At a meeting with Health Ministry officials this week, Nhan said the team could also help estimate the demand for drugs and thus help producers target their activities.

At present, Viet Nam has 180 pharmaceutical companies and 300 manufacturers of traditional medicines. Drugs made in Viet Nam meet half the country's demand.

Hospitals across the country spent about VND15 trillion (US$717 million) on medicines last year, 38.7 per cent locally produced.

Meanwhile, head of the ministry's Medicine Management Department Truong Quoc Cuong said regulations on drug storage, circulation and sales were too vague or no longer suited situations.

On the issue of prices, Cuong said drugs in Viet Nam were still cheap compared, for example, with Thailand (which were 3.17 times higher) and China (2.25 times higher).

He recommended the Government create a specific decision on drug price management, under the management of the Finance Ministry instead of the Health Ministry, similar to the operation on petrol pricing.

Head of the Healthcare Insurance Department Tong Song Huong said an increase in the production of drugs in Viet Nam could help reduce the cost of healthcare treatment.

It would help poor people avoid healthcare fee burden, she said.

Nguyen Quy Son, vice chairman of Association of Drug Enterprises, said the association had 122 members which accounted for 70 per cent of the domestic drug production and distribution.

The association encouraged its members to offer drugs at reasonable prices and improve the public's knowledge of the advantages of locally-made products. — VNS


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