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MOH’s conclusion about drug prices raises doubts   2012-07-13 - NLD

The Ministry of Health has shown evidences to prove that the drug prices in Vietnam are not high. However, people believe that the ministry’s argument is not convincing.

Survey method doubtful

In order to prove that the drug prices in Vietnam are not high, a group of officials from MOH and other relevant ministries has conducted a survey on the drug prices in the region.

The survey has found out that the prices of some specifics with the same commercial names, active substances, concentrations and contents such as Rocephin, Zinat 250 mg (500 mg), Augmetin BD, Pulmicort, Diamicron MR, Vastarel MR, Adalat LA, Crestor, Xeloda, Cellcept, Durogesic, Smecta in China and Thailand are 1-6 times higher than in Vietnam.

However, a pharmacist has pointed out that it is insufficient to compare drug prices just based on commercial names, active substances, concentrations and contents. He said that the prices of the same products and the same producers would still be different, if they are made in different countries.

“Let’s take Zithromax of Pfizer as an example. The prices of products made in Italia and the US would be different from that of the products made in India or China. That explains why Vietnam has been importing the same products from different sources to stabilize some kinds of expensive medicine,” he said.

Other experts have also said that the MOH’s survey result is not convincing, because the ministry has only surveyed the prices of 36 products out of the 10,000 products available on the market, which means that the 36 products do not exactly reflect the current situation of the drug market.

Medicine prices getting chaotic

A physician in Hanoi has revealed that patients now have to buy drugs at the prices which are tens or hundreds of times higher than the original prices. A new unfamiliar medicine product would not be able to exist on the market without the “support of physicians” in prescription.

This explains why some products with the same active substances made in Vietnam and India have the prices double the products made in Australia and France. “Why have been the drugs with the sky high prices sold well if they have not been pushed up by some influential power?” he said.

A lot of surveys conducted by independent institutions have pointed out that drugs have been going through different intermediaries, which is considered a “method” helping push the prices up.

Maxazith Suspension 20 ml (Azithromycin), sourced from Bangladesh, for example, had the cost price of 16,000 dong per box at Vietnam’s ports. However, the products, after going through the three import companies, they were sold to hospitals at 92,000 dong per box, and hospitals retailed to patients at 107,000 dong per box, which is 7 times higher than the import price.

The drug prices in Vietnam have been escalating continuously. The Pharmaceutical Companies Association VNPCA has released a report, showing that domestically made drugs have seen the prices increasing by 9.37 percent, while import drugs by 6.4 percent.

Meanwhile, Nguyen Thanh Lam, a senior official of the Drug Administration under MOH, in an interview given to Nguoi lao dong, has denied the fact that medicine prices have been fluctuating heavily recently.

Lam said that the reports by the General Statistics Office and the Ministry of Industry and Trade’s taskforce on the domestic market management all showed that the drug market has been stabilized with no sudden sharp price increases.

The reports said that the medicine price increased only by 2.08 percent in the first six months of 2012, the 9th sharpest increase among the 11 key categories of goods. The increase was also lower than the general CPI increase of 2.52 percent.

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