Workers at a pharmaceutical company in Hanoi. Photo by Anh Vu
Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung has rebuked health minister Nguyen Thi Kim Tien for high medicine prices while approving a proposal to establish a national committee to control medicine prices at a conference on March 21.
“Medicine prices are very high, Ms Tien. In what way did [you] manage things that resulted in such high drug prices?” he said at the conference discussing the draft amended Pharmacy Law in Hanoi.
He said almost every doctor knows a pharmacy that they tell patients to buy medicine from.
“Meanwhile, residents are suffering because they cannot bargain on drug prices,” he said.
At the conference, relevant ministries have attempted to pass the buck to others while avoiding the responsibility to manage medicine prices.
Health minister Tien said her ministry has been managing the field but there have been many problems.
“The Ministry of Finance should be appointed to manage drug prices,” she said, adding that that would be in line with the Price Law and international trends.
However, finance minister Dinh Tien Dung opposed the proposal, saying that the health ministry should be the major party in managing drug prices while other ministries should only coordinate with it.
Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam proposed that the health ministry should implement a clear mechanism on coordination of relevant agencies.
“Whoever will manage medicine prices, they must not allow unreasonable medicine price hikes,” he said.
Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Vu Van Ninh said the finance ministry should issue price caps while the health ministry manages detailed prices.
Following controversial proposals, Prime Minister Dung instructed further discussions before submitting the bill for approval.
He supported a proposal to set up a committee to manage drug prices.
Earlier, Deputy Prime Minister Dam proposed to set up a committee to manage drug prices, comprised of health and finance ministry personel and consumer associations.
The health minister will be the committee chair and the committee will vote on applications for modifying drug prices whenever there is any abnormal fluctuation, according to the proposal.
According to a World Health Organization report, in Vietnam patients actually pay 46.58 times the international reference prices for innovative brands and 11.41 times for the lowest-priced generics.
Many drugs for diseases like HIV/AIDS, cancer, and hepatitis B and C are already too expensive for most people, according to Oxfam.
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