HA NOI (VNS) — Doctors are no longer allowed to prescribe dietary supplements under a requirement signed by Tran Quang Trung, director of the Vietnam Food Administration (VFA) under the Ministry of Health.
A 2008 Ministry of Health decision prohibited doctors from including dietary supplements in prescriptions for outpatients. However, the VFA recently received reports that some hospitals and doctors were prescribing them.
Associate professor Tran Dang, chairman of the Functional Food Association, told Phap luat (Law) e-newspaper that enterprises often promoted supplements as medicines.
Nguyen Kim Oanh, 60, living in Ha Noi's Nam Tu Liem District, said that a year ago she was advised to buy three kinds of supplements by a doctor at Xay Dung Hospital, the hospital of the construction sector. Buying them cost more than VND3 million (US$140) – her whole monthly pension.
"The doctor even asked me to wait for an hour at the hospital so that one of her acquaintances could bring me the supplements. Then I saw that she received some commission from the supplier," Oanh said.
After taking the supplements, Oanh did not see her health improve and had to see another doctor.
"The ban will help patients like me avoid wasting money on ineffective supplements," she said.
However, doctors feared the ban would be impossible to enforce.
One doctor from Ha Noi's Bach Mai Hospital said that many doctors continued to prescribe supplements, as no one inspected them and they saw no consequences for doing so.
"They receive commissions from distributors, so they do not obey the regulations," she said.
Supplements were not dangerous and could even be beneficial when taken in conjunction with regular medicine, she said. The problem was that they were expensive, so it was not right to prescribe them to poor patients. — VNS