Wed, Jul 12, 2006 - Page 3 News List

Pharmacists outraged by prescription policy

By Flora Wang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Threatening the Department of Health with a malpractice suit, the National Union of Pharmacist Associations yesterday accused the agency of failing to effectively implement policies intended to separate the pharmaceutical practice from medical institutions.

Chairman of the union Ho Jung-sheng (何榮生) told a press conference that the department's new policy to increase prescription fees paid to pharmacists when they fill out a prescription favored doctors.

Under the new policy, which took effect on July 1, a previous measure in which money was paid to doctors when their patients filled prescriptions at pharmacies has been canceled. The change came in response to criticism that doctors were profiting from such fees.

Under the new regulation, the prescription fee given to drugstores has risen from NT$32 (US$1) to NT$45 per prescription, and the fee paid to pharmacists hired by a clinic to fill a prescription has risen to NT$30.

Ho, whose union represents 21 local sub-branches with more than 18,000 members nationwide, said that in response to the new rule, doctors may either cooperate with pharmacies or force hired pharmacists to establish affiliated drugstores at their clinics, as a way to circumvent the new rule and continue to gain income from prescription fees paid by the national health insurance system.

Ho said it might make it difficult for hired or affiliated pharmacists operating at clinics to maintain their independence and monitor problems with doctors' prescriptions, if the doctor is their boss.

The department should consider ways to help uphold pharmacists' professional knowledge, he added.

President of the Taipei Pharmacists' Association Lien Jui-meng (連瑞猛) said Taiwanese annually consume medication worth up to NT$150 billion (US$4.6 billion) -- 7.2 times the level consumed by US citizens.

The union estimated that at least half of the pharmacies that operate within the national health insurance system are "controlled" by doctors, but it was unable to present precise statistics.

The union's secretary-general, Liu Chun-liang (劉俊良), said his group was going to file a suit against the department for malpractice tomorrow.

In response, the Bureau of National Health Insurance said doctors must give patients their prescriptions directly, and a 100-fill limit per pharmacist per day had been imposed on pharmacies operating within the national health insurance system and clinics, according to the new regulations.

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