Conference proposes cutting use of generic drugs to reduce burden on health insurance fund

24/06/2020 09:05 AM

Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam on June 23 chaired a meeting on health insurance coverage on generic medicine during which participants agreed on the need to have a roadmap to reduce the use of generic medicine to save health insurance funds.

According to Vietnam Social Security, in 2018 and 2019, the health insurance fund covered about VND37 trillion (US$1.6 billion) for drugs, including VND11.5 trillion ($500 million) for generic drugs, accounting for 26.5 per cent – a relatively high percentage compared to other countries.

The generic drug coverage costs were high in some localities such as Hanoi (38.9 per cent) and HCM City (44.5 per cent) where many high-level hospitals are located. The drug coverage was mostly on cancers, heart diseases and digestive system-related illnesses.

If generic drugs were replaced by brand-name drugs classified in the first group, Hanoi and HCM City would have saved VND279 billion ($12.1 million) and VND523 billion ($22.7 million), respectively.

Deputy minister of health Nguyen Quang Thuan said about 38 per cent of generic drugs used in Viet Nam are for cancer treatment compared to 20 per cent in developed countries like the UK, France and Germany.

Generic cancer drugs are seven to eight times more expensive than brand-name drugs classified in the first group.

Comparing to bidding prices in 2019, if six types of generic cancer drugs were replaced by brand-name drugs in group 1, about VND366 billion ($15.9 million) would have been saved. If three generic antibiotic drugs were replaced with brand-name drugs, it would have helped save more than VND1 trillion ($43.5 million), he said.

Following a resolution on promoting public healthcare in the new context and directions of the Government and Prime Minister, Viet Nam has launched centralised drug bidding over the past five years. The bidding has reduced Viet Nam’s drug prices by 35 per cent to reaching the lowest point in ASEAN.

According to the World Health Organisation, the percentage of fake and low-quality drugs in Viet Nam remains below 2 per cent, lower than ASEAN’s average level of 7 per cent.

The percentage of domestically-manufactured drugs has increased year on year and accounted for a larger quantity than imported drugs.

Participants at the meeting agreed on the necessity to ensure quality drug sources but Viet Nam should avoid overspending on patent drugs (generic drugs), especially drugs that have expired patent protection or can be replaced by other drugs produced by developed countries.

There should be a roadmap to reduce the use of patent drugs to save health insurance fund and people’s budget, they said.

Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam asked the Ministry of Health to work with the EU and US chambers of commerce in Viet Nam to soon accomplish a co-operation project on manufacturing drugs in Viet Nam and shortening production process of generic drugs./.