Drugs shortfall requiring clean-up via authorisations

July 20, 2022 | 18:15
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Vietnam’s health sector is still challenged by a shortfall of drugs and medical devices in the post-pandemic landscape, urging a strong legal reshuffle ahead to increase business facilitation and market certainty.
Hospitals and healthcare facilities in Vietnam are worried that supplies may be reduced, Le Toan
Hospitals and healthcare facilities in Vietnam are worried that supplies may be reduced, Le Toan

Deputy Minister of Health Do Xuan Tuyen at a meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam on July 14 said that the shortfall of drugs and medical equipment at hospitals is subdued, adding that his ministry (MoH) is drafting a government resolution on solving the situation which includes solutions to strengthen national centralised tendering for 528 kinds of pharmaceuticals covering 2022 and 2023.

Tuyen noted that the MoH has already worked with the Ministry of Finance (MoF) on amending some relevant circulars on tendering and purchase of drugs and medical equipment; and reviewing challenges in drug tendering at hospitals and in localities. The MoH has also boosted the granting of circulation registration numbers for new drugs; and extended marketing authorisations (MAs) for existing ones to ensure that pharma firms can join tendering.

The MoH and MoF, Vietnam Social Security, and central hospitals on July 6 gathered to find possible solutions to the problems relating to regulations issued by the MoF on the purchase of pharmaceuticals and medical devices. The gathering was held in line with the prime minister’s request to solve these issues and reassign jobs at state-owned medical units.

Minister of Finance Ho Duc Phoc said both ministries will together revise circulars and decrees that cause the problems and then submit the amendments to higher authorities for issuance. Phoc elaborated that the MoF will soon issue new documents to guide ministries, agencies, and localities and optimise their performance.

Meanwhile, for those under the jurisdiction of the MoH, it should guide both hospitals and medical departments in order to improve related issues.

Regarding issues under the jurisdiction of the government and the prime minister and other ministries and agencies, the MoF asked the MoH to quicken its tasks and report to the government for consideration and approval.

On June 30, in line with the prime minister’s request, the MoF enacted Document No.6307/BTC-HCSN, together with several others, on solutions to boost the allocation of regular state budget expenditures in 2022 for the MoH.

The MoF also sent Document No.6301/BTC-HCSN dated July 1 to the MoH, proposing to check the prevailing regulations related to the purchase of medicines, medical devices, supplies, and biological products, and to propose possible measures and solutions and send these back to the MoF and relevant ministries and agencies for consideration and approval.

The MoH blamed the shortfall of drugs partly on slow announcements of results of national centralised tendering, as well as price negotiations of some pharmaceuticals in national centralised tendering. Thus, local hospitals would have failed to control the time and volume of their purchases.

According to statistics from the MoH, it is estimated that nearly 13,000 MAs will expire between November last year and the end of 2022. Meanwhile, the Vietnam Pharmaceutical Association added that hundreds of drug registration numbers in Vietnam expired in Q1 alone this year. If these MAs are not extended for use, interruption in the supply of medicine will be likely.

Earlier, the issue was also discussed at the MoH’s and the government’s meetings on June 23 and 29, at which Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh asked the MoH to quicken the work with the MoF and other relevant ministries and agencies.

Meanwhile, hospitals and pharma firms remain still in difficult situations, with many facilities in the central province of Ha Tinh worried about a lack of pharmaceuticals and medical supplies. Huong Khe General Hospital, for instance, has a serious shortage of 500 types of supplies such as medical cotton, gauze, needles, and gloves.

Phan Truong Sang, director of the hospital said, “If the shortage continues until August, the hospital will have no medical supplies left. There have not been any bidding packages, so we cannot purchase anything.”

Hospitals and healthcare facilities in Vietnam’s north and south have been facing similar situations. Huynh Thanh Tri, deputy director of Vinh Long General Hospital, said that the most difficult part is the lack of medical chemicals and supplies, which would seriously affect treatment activities, especially heart attack screenings, coagulation, and other procedures. “Due to a lack of medicines and medical supplies, we had to send many patients to higher-level hospitals, or advised them to buy pharmaceuticals elsewhere,” Tri admitted.

Jean Jacques Bouflet, vice chairman of the European Chamber of Commerce in Vietnam (EuroCham) told VIR, “Although efforts have provided the pharmaceutical industry with some critical temporary relief in allowing the continuing supply of medicines to patients, these measures are temporary and will require additional actions. A more permanent solution is achieved by timely validity renewals which, due to the substantial backlog, will take time and legislation changes to address.”

According to EuroCham, the industry will have a higher demand for pharmaceuticals by the end of 2022. However, with compounding factors, including MAs validity challenges, a delay in centralised tendering and price negotiations would add to the uncertainty and unpredictability of the market.

By Tung Anh

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