Fri, Oct 27, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Health insurance scheme completes drug price review

By Angelica Oung  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Bureau of National Health Insurance has completed its fifth price adjustment for prescription medication, effective starting on Wednesday.

According to the bureau, 5,359 items will be affected by the adjustment, and a record NT$7 billion (US$210 million) to NT$9 billion will be saved.

However, pharmaceutical companies are unhappy with the impending price cuts. A representative of AstraZeneca was quoted by CNA as saying that the bureau's move was "unfair" and might lead AstraZeneca to withdraw some of the harder-hit drugs from the market.

Rumors are rife regarding the scale of the possible number of drug withdrawals in the wake of the price adjustment. Popular drugs cited as being in danger include AstraZeneca's Losec, once priced at NT$78 per pill and now slashed to NT$27.8, Wyeth's Leucovorin, cut from NT$76 to NT$52, and Sanofi-Aventis' Depakine, cut from from NT$386 to NT$154 per dose.

Huang Chao-ming (黃肇明), deputy chief of the bureau's pharmaceutical unit, said that many of the drugs hardest hit by the adjustments had already passed their patent period and could be replaced by generics.

Drugs that are still within the patent period will not be cut by more than 3.5 percent, he added.

According to the bureau's press release, the latest round of price adjustments is designed to "make the price paid for medications closer to the actual average market price."

Certain medications regarded as "prone to price movements" and "affecting the public's lives and safety" were not included in the cuts.

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