Bitter pill for Thai public health

your say May 01, 2014 00:00

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Re: "Spotlight on cosy ties between doctors and drugmakers", Burning Issue, April 22.

This column discussed the relationship between doctors and pharmaceutical companies and how this might affect public health.
The issue is more complex. Those people who can afford it hold the view that imported medicines are better than locally made ones. This creates pressure to import from multinationals, which have large sales-forces to try to influence doctors.
Over the last 40 years Thailand has had a good history of providing effective, low-cost medicine for its people. The GPO and local manufacturers have been able to supply the pharmaceutical products and other necessities at the right price and quality.
To purchase hospital medicines, the government uses an electronic bidding process, resulting in lower-cost medicines that usually come from China, not Thailand. These lower-cost medicines have lower quality.
The government has stated that it wants to reform the health system and reduce expenditures, which over the last decade have risen from Bt60 million to Bt200 billion a year.
Now the emphasis on lowest cost is causing the local industry to fail to get contracts to supply hospitals. This will likely result in closures, which is bad news for the future of Thai patients and their medicine.
Anthony Margetts