Ho Chi Minh City authorities will tighten control on the purchase of medicines by hospitals and on drug prices, health officials said at a talk show in HCMC Sunday.
The Sunday "Talk and Act" show by HCMC Television focused on the measures to stabilize drug prices with the participation of officials from the Health Ministry, HCMC Health Department and city-based hospitals.
Nguyen Thi Kim Tien, deputy health minister, said the ministry will make some changes in the regulations on drug bidding, with stricter conditions applying for companies bidding to sell drugs for state-owned hospitals.
In the long term, the ministry will draft a decree on drug bidding. At the moment, the regulations on construction bidding are being applied to drug bidding.
Among other measures to control drug prices, the city will regulate that drugs sold in the stores of major hospitals will make a profit of 5 percent only, instead of the current 5-20 percent.
The Health Ministry is planning to make some changes in the pharmaceutical law issued in 2005, Tien added.
The ministry has proposed higher fines for wrongdoings in selling medicines such as increasing medicine prices without the ministry's approval.
Pham Phuong Thao, chairwoman of HCMC People's Council, said four medicine sales companies signed up for a program to stabilize drug prices initiated by HCMC Health Department last March.
The program began April 1 and will last until March 31, 2012. Under the program, the stabilized drug prices will be at least 10 percent lower than in the market.
Ten types of drugs are included in the program, which cover fever and painkillers, anti-allergic drugs, diarrhea, cough, stomachache, heart diseases, diabetes, antibiotics and eye drops.
These commodities account for 50 percent of the market demand and will sell through pharmacies in hospitals, pharmaceutical store chains and private shops in residential quarters.
Participating enterprises can be given a loan of VND9 billion (US$435,000) without interest or payments for 12 months.
Thao said the city's health authorities should balance the management of homemade and imported drugs and closely watch the listings of medicine prices by pharmaceutical companies.
The city should have a plan to invest in the drug-making industry, because Vietnam is among the countries that have advantages in producing medicines.
"We should import only the drugs that Vietnam cannot make," she said.
Local media and critics have long alleged that backroom deals between drug manufacturers and hospitals have resulted in doctors prescribing drugs that patients do not need in exchange for kickbacks.
Legislators have also found that public hospitals have purchased pharmaceuticals, particularly imported drugs, at 150 to 300 percent mark-ups in which the cost is ultimately passed on to patients.