November 21, 2012 00:00 By PONGPHON SARNSAMAK THE NATION
A board member of the National Health Security Office (NHSO) yesterday protested the public health minister's reversal of a ban on glucosamine for treatment of arthritis patients under the civil-service insurance plan.
Public Health Minister Dr Pradith Sinthawanarong, who chairs the drug and pharmaceutical equipment management system, medication reimbursement and medical services committee, had instructed the Comptroller General Department (CGD) to withdraw its announcement forbidding civil servants from receiving glucosamine at state hospitals.
The minister said his order followed the committee’s recommendation, which allows civil servants to receive glucosamine but only under a doctor’s specific orders.
Pradith said the committee would seek a median reimbursement rate for patients who receive the treatment. Patients who use the supplement at a higher-than-approved price will not be reimbursed.
This regulation will come into effect on January 1.
Earlier this month, the CGD had announced a ban on glucosamine sulphate as a budgetary measure. The department found that the government was spending more than Bt700 million a year to reimburse civil servants who used the supplement.
The department is also seeking to limit expenses for eight illnesses and for outpatient services next year.
NHSO board member Boonyeun Siritham said she was disappointed with Pradith.
“I don’t believe that the government will follow its commitment to reduce the health-care costs,” she said.
The CGD’s decision to ban glucosamine arthritis treatments under the civil-service health plan was not only because of financial reasons but also because the efficacy of glucosamine is disputed in medical circles.
“What kind of information, study or research did Pradith use to make his decision?” Boonyeun said.
Another NHSO board member, Dr Wichai Chokewiwat, has also opposed another idea of Pradith’s – to dissolve the small health-care funds under the universal health coverage. The small funds currently help people with chronic diseases, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer and kidney disease, giving them access to medicine.
“This idea would drag the country backwards,” he said.