Bulk buying of drugs not feasible

Bulk buying of drugs not feasible

In yesterday's commentary ("Reducing the pain of health-care costs"), Dr Carol Tan suggested group purchasing of drugs in the public and private sectors as a way to drive down health-care costs.

It has never been government policy to dictate how the private sector does business ("Private hospital charges not under MOH's purview" by the Ministry of Health; Aug 26).

Rather, the State offers patients the choice between subsidised and non-subsidised treatment. Those who can afford it may choose private-sector treatment for the convenience, shorter waiting times and more personalised services.

Also, there are millions of different drugs on the market. How would the Government know what to buy in bulk, given that doctors have their own drug preferences?

And if the State sets "recommended" prices for drugs, private doctors would charge more for consultations and other procedures to cover lower earnings from drug sales - and it's back to square one.

The Government is already taking steps to ensure health care is affordable, through its Community Health Assist Scheme and integrated care hospitals to cater to the needy.

It has never been the intention of the State to compete with the private sector. Instead, government services complement those of the private sector, and patients who can afford it can always "go private."

- Francis Cheng

This article was first published on September 24, 2014.
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