Taiwan National Health Insurance to Stop Covering Medicine Costs

 Taiwan National Health Insurance to Stop Covering Medicine Costs
示意圖,非實際停止給付藥品。Photo Credit: Cobris/達志影像
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The National Health Insurance Administration under the Ministry of Health and Welfare announced they will stop covering medication costs starting from September, as prices for certain medicine are higher than the reimbursement from the National Health Insurance (NHI).

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UDN reports, following the discontinuation of producing Pecolin, a diarrhea medication for children, and Bisacodyl produced by the Yungshin pharmaceutical company,the National Health Insurance Administration under the Ministry of Health and Welfare announced they will stop covering medication costs starting from September, as prices for these medicine are higher than the reimbursement from the National Health Insurance (NHI).

The Taiwan Medical Alliance for Labor Justice and Patient Safety (TMAL) posted on Facebook, in addition to antidiarrheal drugs, constipation medication is also no longer covered by the health insurance.

Moreover, Dulcolax, formally produced by Boehringer Ingelheim GmbH, will no longer be shipped, due to fierce competition on the market. All of this is thanks to the “benevolent government".

China times reports, a few days ago, Pecolin was withdrawn from the Taiwanese market. NHI will also stop covering the medication starting from September 1. A high-level manager of the Standard Chem. & Phram.Co.,LTD says, they have decided to stop production after receiving the notice from the ministry that the medication will no longer be covered.

The NHI prices for medication have decreased in recent years, yet as many children still take Pecolin, the company has been losing money in doing so.

Apple Daily reports, the ministry says new drug prices have been implemented in April. Before then, a number of hospitals reported the selling price of medication to be higher than the NHI coverage. After investigation, 17 kinds of medication from 14 pharmaceutical companies, (ten kinds of prescription drugs, seven kinds of OTC drugs) have this problem, and have all demanded to lower the costs.

Besides Standard Chem. & Phram.Co.,LTD no longer producing Pecolin, 13 other pharmaceutical companies, including Yungshin, CCPC and four others have already been willing to cooperate with the price change. The remaining companies have not yet replied. If these nine companies also discontinue production, there are still alternative medication available.

UDN reports, regarding drug prices, director Zheng Cheng-jie of the gynecology maternity unit at the Kaohsiung Medical University hospital says the ministry’s price decrease will be less than NT$ 1 (approximately US$ 0.03) for each tablet. Zheng is afraid pharmaceutical companies will be forced to use cheap low-quality materials. He worries this system will become the medical version of the gutter oil scandal.

There are also netizens who are doctors that question if this implicates the medical system breaking down in Taiwan. Health care suppressing drug costs will force foreign pharmaceutical companies to leave the island. The netizens also point out that the medical equipment and medicine in the world have certain international markets, and if the domestic pharmaceutical alternative products have the same effect as imported drugs, then why aren’t we exporting the Taiwanese products to the world?

In the past, legislators have questioned the more than four hundred cardiovascular drugs and two hundred gastrointestinal drugs that are less than NT$ 1 with health care.

The medicine scandal that took place a while ago exposed many pharmaceutical companies that were using API that were against regulation. This is also considered to be related to overly low drug costs.

Deputy Director of the Health Insurance Department Cai Shu-ling says there is indeed a difference between NHI benefits and hospital medicine prices. This is commonly known as the “black hole of medicine costs". The department will reduce the price difference through investigating drug costs. Cai believes that sayings of NHI bargaining too low and suspicions of pharmaceutical companies using inferior ingredients are too dramatic and people should return to scientific discussions.

Healthnews.com reports, Director Cheng-Bai Jun of the Ministry of Health and Welfare says that the current reimbursement for the drugs have reached up to more than 16,000 items. Before this medication is added to the list of drugs covered by the NHI, they have to be checked on whether their safety, quality and healing efficiency meet the standards in order to to obtain approval from the ministry. After approval, the ministry will be able to discuss procedures and consult with manufacturers regarding prices to integrate it into the NHI coverage.

Translated by Sarah Grasdijk and Olivia Yang
Edited by Olivia Yang

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