Pharmaceutical News
NHI price cut causes concerns over drug quality

The NHIA has announced a new round of drug price cut.  The Taiwan Healthcare Reform Foundation (THRF) expressed that though the drug price cut helps to bring drug prices to a reasonable level, there should be corresponding measures for monitoring hospitals’ unusual changes of formulary listing.  The THRF urged hospitals not to change formulary listing simply due to cost concern.  According to the NHIA’s announcement, this drug price cut will affect 7392 drug items in total.  The NHIA estimated that the total saving from this cut will reach NT$3.18 billion a year.  Some common hypotensives, including Norvasc, Crestor and Plavix, are on the price cut list.  The new prices are to take effect from April, affecting about 5 million people.   It has caused concerns that hospitals might change their formulary listing and manufacturers might just pack up and leave.


Shih Ru-Liang of the NHIA expressed that the price cut is associated with the success of the cloud-based prescription records and a system to claw back from duplicate prescriptions.  Shih continued that the price cut will also reduce the co-payment imposed on patients.   The NHIA will use the savings from the price cut to introduce new drugs and new technology, relax current drug reimbursement regulations and increase the point-value for medical treatments.  Shen Pei-Han of the THRF expressed that the price cut is a useful measure to bring drug prices to a reasonable level.  However, from past experiences, changes of formulary listing always follow the drug price cut.   She urged that hospitals should exercise self-restraint and the NHIA should have a monitoring mechanism in place in order to stop hospitals changing their formulary listing.


However, Wang Yu-Bei, the President of the TPMA, reckoned that the authority should also consider the quality and the use of drugs when proposing a drug price cut.  Dr Chang Chi-Hua, the President of the Taiwan Medical Alliance for Labour Justice (TMAL), pointed out that as the NHIA keeps cutting drug prices, drug manufacturers may be forced to abandon the market in Taiwan.  It will have a devastating effect on the healthcare quality.  Dr Chang urged the public not to believe the fallacy that price cut is a good thing.  It is because, at the end, only cheap drugs can survive the persistent price cuts.  Patients will be the ultimate victim.  Wang Shun-Mu, the President of the TGPA, said that in addition to price cuts, drug prices are also under the constraint of the Global Budget.   The two mechanisms should be differentiated, said Wang.


It has been reported that in some cases, a bottle of IV drip is cheaper than bottled water, and a drug tablet is cheaper than a sweet.  Facing these accusations, Shih Ru-Liang pointed out that the NHI drug prices are not the lowest in the world.  For example, the payment price of Sando-K is NT$3.21 in Taiwan, NT$2.04 in Japan, NT$2.94 in the UK and NT$0.75 in Australia. 


【2016-02-21/ 101 Media】