Reported Wei Yi-Chia from Taipei
The NHIA is negotiating lower prices of new drugs for hepatitis C with drug companies. However, there is a concern over the crowding-out effect on the reimbursement of new drugs for other conditions, such as immunotherapies for cancers and new drugs for lowering cholesterol. Lin Tzou-yien, the MOHW Minister, expressed that the authority will negotiate with the industry in order to find solutions to affordable new drugs. As for the balance-billing, it requires a thorough discussion in the legislature.
As the medical technology advances, the spectrum of drug types spread from chemical entities to biologics, target therapies and gene therapies. Those innovative treatments have two things in common. First, they directly deal with the causes of the health problems; and secondly, they are very expensive.
New drugs, though very expensive, are effective and with fewer side effects. For some patients, new drugs are life-saving. It is foreseeable that there are going to be more and more new drugs on the market, but most of them will be beyond the reach of ordinary people. Among the NT$150-160 billion a year spent by the NHI on drugs, only NT$2-3 billion are on new drugs. Without the NHI reimbursement, the access to new drugs is almost impossible. The discussion on the reimbursement of new drugs for hepatitis C just reveals the government’s lack of a long-term plan for dealing with the financial impact from new drugs.
The IRPMA expressed that the NHI Global Budget is a fixed budget for medical treatments and drugs. As the point-value for drugs is fixed at NT$1 per point, any increase in drug spending will affect the point-value for medical treatments, bringing hospitals into conflict with the pharmaceutical industry. The Taiwanese government has an inadequate budget for new drugs. As a result, it affects its people’s chance to access new drugs. As the NHIA decides to cut the NHI premium rate, the NHI finance will be under enormous stress. The authority has to work out inventive ways to ease the financial pressure.
The NHI officials expressed that the financial impact from new drugs is a complicated issue, affecting hospitals and the pharmaceutical industry. Hence, it is difficult to make decisions or plans. More discussions and communications are definitely required.
【2016-06-26/ China Times】