HCMC explains cause of drug shortages at medical facilities

Today, leaders of Ho Chi Minh City Department of Health chaired a meeting directly with the Director and Dean of Pharmacy Department of attached hospitals and medical centers to discuss the situation of drug supply and solutions to proactively prevent drug shortage due to fear of making mistakes when bidding for drug procurement.


HCMC explains cause of drug shortages at medical facilities ảnh 1 Document  for bidding of drugs
At the meeting, hospitals and medical examination and treatment facilities in the city said that they still ensure enough supply of drugs for the medical examination and people’s treatment needs because most hospitals have been organizing bidding for drugs according to regulations.
Upon the question of a shortage of drugs, infirmary managers affirmed this but they revealed that these are problems that have existed for a long time due to many different reasons rather than fear of making mistakes.
According to hospital managers, the shortage of drugs is because the city's health sector is always passive for some drugs on the rare drugs such as Dopamine, Dextran polymer solution, and antivenom serum snake whose suppliers ceased production.
In addition, drugs under special control such as narcotics and psychotropic drugs such as Diazepam, injectable Phenobarbital, and Midazolam will be difficult to find in the following years because domestic manufacturers have difficulty in the source of raw materials or because companies around the world have stopped production.
Recently, there have also been a few drugs interrupted due to the conflict between Russia and Ukraine; for instance, the supply of Methotrexate drug, which is used to treat leukemia and certain types of cancer of the breast, skin, head and neck, lung, or uterus, is interrupted because it is manufactured in Belarus, or because the registration number has expired but has not been renewed by the Ministry of Health.
In the face of these new arising situations, hospitals all have plans to use alternative drugs, except for some irreplaceable drugs such as antivenom serums.
Hospitals in the area are still passive in the procurement of drugs on the list of price negotiation and national-level centralized bidding which is done by the National Center for Centralized Drug Procurement according to regulations.
If a hospital waits for the bidding results of the National Drug Center, it will face a shortage of drugs whereas if a hospital takes the initiative in bidding, it may face payment difficulties when the National Drugs Centralized Shopping Center has bidding results at prices lower than those of hospitals that have bid before.
Additionally, some new drugs have arisen because large hospitals have implemented specialized techniques such as drugs for oncology, and hematology. Most of these drugs do not have registration numbers, mainly import shipments every year after being licensed by the Ministry of Health. In case the Ministry of Health has not issued a permit in time, it is likely that these drugs will be in short supply for a certain period of time; as a result, all hospitals expect the Ministry of Health to consider and approve when a hospital needs to import shipments to meet the requirements of the Ministry of Health to meet patients’ treatment needs.
Some small medical examination and treatment establishments such as district health centers or district hospitals, lack the human resources to participate in drug bidding as prescribed and have no experience in procurement. These establishments are often passive in drug procurement because of the small quantity procurement and lack of experience in procuring additional drugs as prescribed for those that do not win the bid.
One of the significant challenges for the city's health sector in the current period is that in addition to providing solutions to proactively prevent shortages of drugs and medical supplies at medical examination and treatment facilities, public hospitals under the Department of Health also have to be ready to receive patients from provinces and cities transferred due to serious illnesses and even due to a lack of some drugs and medical supplies when localities are slow to organize bidding as per the law.
According to Associate Professor Tang Chi Thuong, Director of the HCMC Department of Health, the Department of Health has advised the city's leaders to allow the city's health sector to set up a centralized procurement center for drugs, medical supplies, and equipment of the city health sector. The Department of Health has developed a project and submitted it to the municipal People's Committee for consideration and approval. The center will operate according to the roadmap at the initial stage of centralized drug procurement. After it operates stably, the center will proceed to purchase medical supplies and equipment.
In addition, the Department of Health will set up a working group that is responsible for receiving information, consulting, and guiding the handling of drug shortage information from medical examination and treatment facilities. The city health authority will organize expert councils by each special faculties to review and update drugs on the list of rare drugs in treatment regimens and develop alternative drugs that are scientific and suitable to the current drug supply.
The Department of Health also requested directors of hospitals and medical examination and treatment facilities to strengthen the inspection and supervision of adherence to treatment regimens in prescribing work at their units. The Department of Health announced to set up inspection teams on drug supply management activities in hospitals and the Drug and Treatment Council’s activities will relate to the above-mentioned drug supply issues.
The Department of Health of Ho Chi Minh City proposed financial support from the municipal People's Committee for the health sector in stockpiling some rare drugs in the emergency treatment of patients.
Last but not least, the Department expected the completion of the project of the high-tech Medical-Pharmaceutical Technology Park to limit the dependence on imported drugs and medical supplies in emergency and intensive treatment.
At the same time, the Department proposed the Ministry of Health continue shortening the registration number extension time for drugs with expired registration numbers as well as consider and shorten the time for import permits for shipments of drugs without registration numbers and consider and issue registration numbers for drugs that frequently require import permits.
Finally, the Department directed the National Drug Procurement Center to shorten the time for price negotiation and centralized bidding so that hospitals can promptly sign procurement contracts with suppliers, avoiding disruptions and affecting the quality of treatment and care of patients and need to have an order policy for domestic manufacturers to give priority to the production of special treatment drugs such as antivenom serum.
On June 18, regarding the news that newspapers published about the scarcity, even running out of vaccines at some medical units, the Vietnam Vaccine Company confirmed that there are still enough vaccines for children and adults without an increase in prices nationwide.

By Thanh Son – Translated by Anh Quan

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