Reported by Chiang Hui-Chun from Taipei
The MOHW Minister’s pledge to provide NHI-reimbursed new drugs for hepatitis C might not be fulfilled, as it has been confirmed that the 2017 budget for public affairs does not include the cost of the new treatments for hepatitis C. Also, there are different opinions among hospitals and fee payers. The NHI Global Budget Negotiation Meeting will decide whether the new drugs are to be available under balance-billing in the meeting scheduled on next Saturday.
The new drugs for hepatitis C are highly effective (over 90%); but they come with a huge price tag. The MOHW held a public hearing on the “Treatments of Hepatitis C in Taiwan” on the 17th. In the public hearing, Dr Chien Rong-Nan, President of the Taiwan Association for the Study of the Liver, pointed out that there are about 170,000 hepatitis C patients who have not yet received any treatments. What’s more worrying is that there are about 280,000 patients who are not aware of being contracted hepatitis C virus. Dr Chien suggested that the health authority should strengthen the treatment program and reduce drug prices so that more patients can access the new drugs. Furthermore, the screening program has to be extended further to cover as many people as possible. Dr Chien’s suggestion was backed by Dr Chen Ding-Shinn, Academician of the Academia Sinica.
Lee Po-Chang, Director-General of the NHIA, conceded that the budget for public affairs for 2017 has been finalized; and it does not include the budget for new drugs for hepatitis C. The authority does not have a schedule for making the new drugs available under balance-billing, because the concept has yet to be introduced to the public. Though the NHI Drug Dispensing Items and Fee Schedule Joint Establishment Meeting agree that drug reimbursement can be covered by other global budget rather than the global budget for drugs. However, this resolution is not supported by some NHI Board members who are worried that it will set a precedent.
Prof Liang Chi-Ming suggested that the MOHW should ally itself with the health authorities in other countries to pressurize drug companies into reducing drug prices. He also suggested including the cost of hepatitis C treatments in the national defence budget. Balance-billing is another feasible option; however, supports should be available to patients who are financially vulnerable. The MOHW should also consider establishing a drug effectiveness evaluation center and encouraging the R&D of antiviral drugs.
Legislators Lin Jing-Yi, Chen Man-Li and Wu Kuen-Yuh (all DPP) attended the public hearing to show their concerns. Lin Jing-Yi stressed that the NHI should focus more on preventive medicine; and the public should be aware of the cost of medical treatments as everything has a price to pay. Lin hopes this discussion could prompt the authority to make drug related decisions based on public health evaluation results.
【2016-09-18/ United Daily News】