Reported by Lin Hui-Cin from Taipei
In order to understand the public’s habit of using medicines, the NHIA requested hospitals to record the monthly volume of drugs handed in by patients for recycle. The latest data show that about 5.8 tons of drugs were returned by patients for recycle during the month of the study. It indicates that over 69 tons of drugs were recycled in a year. A previous study claims that the drug recycle rate is 36.1%. At this rate, at least 193 tons of drugs were thrown away unused every year. The NHIA is now considering increasing the drug co-payment to control the waste.
The NHIA expressed that during the study period from August to September, 24 medical centers received 2.8 tons of drugs and 84 regional hospitals received 3 tons of drugs for recycle. Based on the data, 69 tons of drugs were handed to hospitals for recycle in a year.
A previous study indicates that 62% of patients tend to dispose of unused drugs by themselves, and only 36% patients hand them to hospitals for recycle. The NHIA estimates that at least 193 tons of drugs were unused and wasted. The actual volume could be higher because clinics and pharmacies were not included in this study.
According to the NHIA, past studies reveal that most recycled drugs are oral drugs, mainly for treating gastrointestinal or cardiovascular problems. The most common reasons of unused drugs include “patients feel better”, “patient forget to take medicine”, etc.
Shen Tsai-Ying, the spokesperson of the Taiwan Pharmacist Association, said that the situation is very worrying. She recently witnessed one patient threw away a big bag of drugs and many bottles of eye drops.
Dr Lee Po-Chang, the General Director of the NHIA, stressed that the NHI drug fees keep spiralling up and reached NT$168.1 billion last year. In order to reduce the waste of drugs, the NHIA will continue promoting the cloud-based medication records, stop reimbursing duplicate prescriptions, and reconsider the drug co-payment. The NHIA does not rule out the possibility of increasing drug co-payment in order to make patients more responsible.