12 Jun 2009 07:27

Drug use guidelines for Chinese hospitals may not reduce patient expenses - insider

By Karl Zhong

Shanghai. June 12. INTERFAX-CHINA - It is questionable whether drug use guidelines can effectively help to reduce patient drug expenses in Chinese hospitals, a business insider recently told Interfax.

"At present, most doctors are still using drug use guidelines in their hospitals only as a reference rather than following them strictly. It remains to be seen whether drug use guidelines can be effective in curbing patient drug expenses," Jian Lingyan, chief pharmacist from Shengjing Hospital Affiliated to China Medical University in Liaoning Province's Shenyang City, said.

The Ministry of Health (MoH) first issued the Methods on the Management of Prescriptions in March 2007, which stipulate that Chinese hospitals should formulate drug use guidelines consisting of drug information such as administration instructions, dosages, contraindications and adverse drug reactions in a bid to encourage the reasonable use of drugs. The methods came into effect in May 2007.

A Wuhan-based pharmaceutical analyst, who declined to be named, told Interfax that as long as hospitals are still reliant on drug revenue and doctor salaries remain low, kickbacks will continue to be prevalent. As such, the role of drug use guidelines in curbing rising drug expenses will be limited.

In spite of this, the Chinese Hospital Association (CHA) and the China Medical Insurance Research Association are already in the process of formulating a national set of drug use guidelines, an official from the CHA, who preferred to remain anonymous, told Interfax.

If properly adhered to, the proposed national drug use guidelines, the first of its kind in China, can help to promote reasonable drug use and cut patient drug expenses as they recommend appropriate treatments based on drugs listed in the national basic medical insurance drug list, which patients receive reimbursements for under their medical insurance, according to the official.

"The national drug use guidelines will no doubt complement China's existing clinical treatment guidelines as well as the soon-to-be-released national essential drug list," the official said.

In order for the national drug use guidelines to be effective, the government needs to make it mandatory for Chinese hospitals to abide by the guidelines and government medical insurance agencies need to enforce stricter reimbursement policies, according to the analyst.