Thursday, December 03, 2020

Concerns rise over nexus between hospitals, drug companies

Jun 10. 2020
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Representational image
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By THE NATION

The number of hospitals that received subsidy from pharmaceutical companies from March to November 2019 jumped from 12 to 186, a survey of pharmaceutical representatives at hospitals nationwide revealed.

Manu Sawangchaeng, independent academic and former general manager at Pfizer (Thailand) Co Ltd, said on Tuesday (June 9) that in March 2019, 12 out of 786 hospitals under the Ministry of Public Health had a record of receiving subsidy from drug companies, or 1.53 per cent. "Ten of them are local hospitals while two are general hospitals,” he said. “In November 2019, however, the number of hospitals receiving drug subsidy jumped to 186, or 23.7 per cent of total hospitals. Of those, 164 are local hospitals and 22 are general hospitals.”

Manu added that the reason the number had increased drastically in only eight months might have been due to the change in hospital directors, which often happens in this period. “A change of directors could sometimes result in laxity in following regulations and could lead to corruption in hospital management,” he said.

“To tackle this problem, I suggest that the Ministry of Public Health should order the Department of Comptroller-General to pay for the drugs and medical supplies directly to pharmaceutical companies instead of through hospitals, to reduce interaction between drug representatives and hospital staff.”

Meanwhile, Dr Sukhum Kanjanapimai, Public Health Ministry permanent secretary, held a press conference regarding the ministry's transfer of Dr Charnchai Janworachaikul from his position as Khon Kaen General Hospital director to the Public Health Administration Division.

“The ministry has investigated the claim that the hospital demanded a subsidy of 5 per cent of drug prices from pharmaceutical companies and found it to be true,” he said. “We will later appoint a special committee to consider disciplinary action against the hospital executives. In the meantime, Dr Kriangsak Watcharanukulkiat from Phra Pok Klao Hospital in Chanthaburi province will temporarily assume the position of Khon Kaen General Hospital director until the matter is resolved.”

Sukhum further added that the ministry will continue to probe other complaints regarding hospitals seeking subsidy from drug companies. “We insist that the administration of hospitals under the ministry must be transparent and free of corruption,” he said. “Asking for donation or subsidy is a violation of hospital regulations and must be handled immediately even without complaints. We will use proactive measures to inspect all hospitals under the Ministry of Public Health, which will cover both witness and documentation investigations, as well as investigation of other related agencies.”

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