IN A move to tackle the issue of overpriced medicines and treatment, the Commerce Industry has garnered cooperation from 100 private hospitals nationwide to reveal the prices they charge for 1,000 medicines and some key medical treatments.
These prices will be displayed on the hospitals’ own websites as well as a central website.
This information, which will allow consumers to compare prices, will be released on April 13 as a Songkran gift to the public, said Prayoth Benyasut, deputy chief of the Department of Internal Trade (DIT).
He said DIT had no authority to have private hospitals to lower their prices, adding that private medical facilities procured medicines and equipment at a higher cost, unlike state hospitals, which can buy supplies in bulk.
The decision to reveal prices stems from a recent meeting DIT had with the Private Hospital Association, whose members agreed in principle to help solve the problem of overpricing.
It is hoped that once this information is out in the open, private hospitals will be less likely to overcharge patients, he said.
The Public Health Ministry’s Health Service Support Department will hold further discussions with private hospitals about the prices of which items should be revealed and present this conclusion at a Commerce Ministry-hosted meeting on January 15.
However, Saree Ongsomwang, secretary-general of the Foundation for Consumers, said revealing the price of medicines online will not necessarily tackle the issue of overpricing. She also said that the department’s claim of having no power to control prices as private hospitals had higher costs was not convincing at all.
“Nowadays, many private hospitals have come together to form groups and some even have their own pharmaceutical companies, so controls can be put in place such as prohibiting private hospitals from charging more than twice as much as pharmacies for medicines. Some private hospitals charge 60 to 400 times more for some medicines. For instance, a vitamin B-complex shot, which costs just Bt1.5 at a state hospital can cost up to Bt600 at a private hospital, or a 50mg painkiller shot which costs Bt6.5 at a state hospital becomes Bt450 at a private hospital,” she said.