Pharmaceutical News
Political party urges government to adjust drug price structure to tackle shortages

Although the MOHW has established the "Drug Supply Reporting Process Center" to address the global drug shortage crisis, community pharmacies are still facing a shortage of 2 or 3 kinds of drugs on a daily basis.  Legislator Chen Wan-Hui (Taiwan People's Party, TPP) and Yang Bao-Chen, the TPP caucus deputy whip, urged the government to take proactive actions instead of waiting to be informed of shortages. They suggested that the government should adjust the drug price structure so as to quickly resolve drug shortages and to ensure the supply of life-saving drugs and drugs for chronic conditions.

Chen Wan-Hui pointed out that despite the drug shortage persisting for 3 years, the NHIA still insisted on carrying out a drug price cut of NT$8.18 billion on April 1st.   The government implemented the Drug Expenditure Target (DET) system in 2013 to control drug prices, resulting in an annual cut in drug prices.   This mechanism, under the name of cost control, has actually forced some drug manufacturers to abandon the Taiwanese market due to lack of profit margins and has led to a vicious circle of drug shortages.

Chen mentioned that Taiwan has an excellent healthcare environment; however, drug shortages continue to affect the quality of healthcare.  It is still questionable whether alternative products are as effective as the original drugs.  The government should provide reasonable margins for drug companies to ensure patients’ medication safety and maintain the quality of healthcare.

According to Yang Bao-Chen, Taiwan consumes 20 million tablets of magnesium oxide (used for relieving constipation); however, due to lack of profits as the NHI reimburses this drug at just NT$0.1-0.16 per tablet, there is now only one manufacturer left to supply this drug.  “Even a sweet costs NT$1,” said Yang.

Rozlytrek, a targeted therapy for lung cancer, is in shortage, and there is no alternative product available.  However, the information on the reporting system is updated only every fortnight.  The lack of information is torturous for patients.  The government should expedite the update of information, especially for life-saving drugs and drugs for chronic conditions so that doctors and patients can consider alternative treatments without any delay. 

The TPP stressed that the government should not be complacent about the establishment of the reporting center. For its part, the government needs to review the structural issues behind the imbalanced supply of drugs and adjust the drug price structure accordingly. The government should also hasten to update the information on drugs for severe diseases to help doctors make effective treatment decisions.

【2023-04-18 / United Daily】