Vientiane, 29 October 2014
WHO - At a recent dissemination workshop to show the results of a survey done on essential medicine prices, Assoc. Prof. Dr Bounkong SYHAVONG, Vice-Minister of Health says the results contradict most public perception, that prices of essential medicines are lower in private clinics or pharmacies than the public sector.
Contrary to general perception, the prices of 50 essential medicines surveyed revealed that prices in the public sector were lower than most anticipated, and lower in prices compared to the private sector.
“This survey undertaken using a standard survey methodology developed by the World Health Organization and Health Action International (HAI) on 50 essential medicines in six provinces showed lower prices in public sector compared to private sector which would surprise most people as the general view is that private sector prices are lower” said Assoc. Prof. Dr Bounkong.
As rapidly rising costs of healthcare and high medicine prices are a growing concern worldwide, especially for countries where patients have to pay the full prices of medicines, a survey on 50 medicine prices was conducted by the Food and Drug Department (FDD) in 2013 by Ministry of health supported by WHO and HAI.
The government has to work toward lowering the public sector procurement prices of medicines and also quality assurance to pass on the savings to the general public. One of the recommendations from the survey was for all public procurement of medicines in all provinces to be centralized through competitive tender which may help to achieve lower prices.
To improve transparency, Lao PDR can also publish government tender prices and request for WHO Price Information Exchanges for comparison with the region.
“The findings show a number of issues that need addressing to help improve access to medicines which include high government procurement prices, particularly in provinces that have decentralized procurement; high public sector patient prices with high markups; sub-optimal medicine availability; unregistered medicines or medicines available in health facilities that are not permitted to stock them” said Dr Jun Gao, WHO team leader of Health System Development in Lao PDR.
“Essential medicines can save lives, reduce sufferings and improve health. But to do so, they must be available and affordable, of assured quality and properly used both by providers and patients. They should be available at all times, in adequate amounts, in the appropriate dosages and at a price that individuals and systems can afford” concluded Dr Jun.
There is also a need to strengthen the medicines regulatory process, ensuring that all medicines are quality assured and registered. As Lao People’s Democratic Republic shares a porous border with China, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand, essential medicines may be imported and distributed by private sectors, where issues related to unregistered drugs may arise.
The public sector level of care of medicines have to be reviewed with a view to make some medicines available and accessible in health centers and district hospitals; rather than restricting supply to only central and provincial level hospitals. This will help improve access to those at the village and district areas, and ensure that they can buy medicines from the public sector that is both affordable and quality assured.
“Ensuring affordable healthcare and medicine prices are important to ensure access for all, this is an important priority of the Ministry of Health” said Assoc. Prof. Dr Bounkong.
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