The health ministry plans to sell stockpiled medicine reserves as one of the measures to manage drug prices and ensure sufficient supplies for health treatment, according to deputy minister Cao Minh Quang.
The national medicine circulation reserve plan allowed the ministry to sell reserve medicines in case of necessity at a market equivalent or lower prices, he said at a meeting held on Tuesday, as part of the implementation of the Prime Minister's directive on price stabilisation measures.
Three State-owned companies were taking part in the reserve plan with between 3,000-3,500 kinds of drugs and treatments stockpiled and these could be released for sale at any time, he said.
"The ministry would also use medicine circulation capital reserves to purchase rare medicines for sale to meet public demand."
Interdisciplinary inspectors would inspect medicine prices at localities nationwide next week, he stressed.
"Ten central-level delegations will check medicine prices in big cities like Ha Noi, HCM City, Da Nang, Hue, Can Tho, and Hai Phong."
Medicine prices set by major producers, foreign-invested companies, importers, exporters and shopping centres would also be inspected with the aim of tightening control over medicine prices, in order to ensure future rises are curbed, Quang said.
He affirmed that the ministry would not allow businesses to increase medicine prices in the coming period, adding that the Drug Administration of Viet Nam recently received up to 1,600 applications by companies to increase medicine prices but all of them had been denied.
However, he said, these were just initial measures but for long-term solutions, the ministry would invite businesses to tender for medical supply contracts with hospitals to reach a common price and amend the pharmaceutical law to recover shortcomings in management tasks.
Minister Nguyen Quoc Trieu said the ministry and relevant agencies were hastening the reform of regulations and legal documents related to medicine prices in order to address shortcomings.
However, he said, it was essential to maintain a balance between supply and demand in order to prevent further price increases.
"Medicine supply sources need to be guaranteed through granting import licences and speeding up distribution," Trieu stressed.
The ministry was finalising a draft regulation to better manage drug stores at hospitals towards reducing retailer mark-ups.
Trieu required authorised health agencies to carry out spot-checks on the implementation of the price regulations.
"Violators will be strictly punished and exposed in the media to warn those considering similar infringements," he said.
Figures from the General Statistics Office showed that drugs and pharmaceutical products had increased in price, but lower than other kinds of commodities.
Medicine prices increased by 3.2-3.5 per cent from late 2009 to October this year while the consumer price index of other basic commodities rose 8.6 per cent. — VNS