Authorities pledge action against drugstore malpractices

Allowing hospitals to open pharmacies within their premises in cooperation with pharmaceutical companies has enabled both sides to collude and sell drugs at higher prices, health officials said in a meeting.

Patients' relatives buy medicines at a hospital's phamarcy

The meeting on Monday between the Vietnam Drug Administration (VDA) and Ho Chi Minh City Health Department followed public concern over rising drug prices as well as unwarranted issue of Good Pharmacy Practices to pharmacies.

Earlier, inspectors at the Ministry of Health had ordered sub-divisions to check drug prices and set up a hot line to receive complaints and suggestions..

Responding to reports that hospitals were selling drugs at higher prices than outside pharmacies, city hospital managers have said they sell at correct prices and have completed all necessary bidding procedures. They explained that outside pharmacies can sell drugs at cheaper prices because they sell medicines without clear indications of origins.

Experts have proposed that tenders are floated to set up pharmacies in order to prevent wrongdoing and stabilize drug prices. Furthermore, the pricing of drugs, both imported and produced at home, should be made transparent, they’ve said, also calling for price comparisons with drugs sold in other Southeast Asian countries.

Dr. Truong Quoc Cuong, VDA director, said concerned agencies faced many difficulties in controlling prices because there are around 22,000 drugs available in Vietnam.

Responding to concerns pharmaceutical firms were bribing doctors with commissions in order for the latter to prescribe the drugs and that prices of imported drugs were not being regulated, Cuong said his administration has ordered firms to explain their actions and provide detailed prices of drugs in other countries in the region.

The ministry will also provide training in ethics doctors and impose harsh penalties on pharmaceutical firms found guilty of wrongdoing, he said.

Do Van Doanh, chairman of the Vietnam Pharmaceutical Companies Association (VNPCA) said awareness had to be built up among both doctors and the public about the advisability of using domestically-made drugs. Doctors should be asked to prescribe home-made drugs and prescribe imported ones only when no locally-made drug is available, he said.

By Staff Writers - Translated by Uyen Phuong

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