New system from Thailand to be used to control drug prices, referral system

Fanuel Ondimu waits for customers in his chemist in Kisii town on 16/03/2019. Kenya plans to adopt new method of managing drug prices. [File, Standard]

Kenya will adopt Thailand’s system of drug pricing in a bid to tame overpricing of pharmaceuticals in the country.

Health Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki said the ministry will have a set price index, similar to what Thailand is using, that every supplier of medical consumables and non-consumables should adhere to.

She said a committee in already in place to see how Thailand’s median price index can be adopted.

Dr Suwit Wilbulpolprasert, advisor to Thailand’s Minister of Public Health, what Thailand has done, is develop a drug essential list with a fixed price for each commodity but hospitals and pharmacies then have the freedom to purchase drugs from both private and public entities.

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“But they cannot purchase drugs in the essential list above the medium price. We have system, that revises the prices regularly and this is what the Health Minister in Kenya asked us to share,” he explained.

CS Kariuki said as it stands, suppliers of pharmaceuticals have a free play ground which allows them to quote exorbitant prices for hospitals.

“It is no surprise that 40 per cent of health care costs is driven by pharmaceuticals,” she said.

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The CS said once this ‘median price index’ is adopted, even tenderers will have to adhere to the set prices.

“What it means is that once we have reference price, if a drug in the tender is Sh200, and we have a set median price, it means the same drug can be available for even half that price and it will go a long way in achieving UHC,” said the CS.

A report by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission(EACC) in August 2018 revealed that hospitals are charging patients up to 5,000 per cent the original price.

A Helicobacter Pylori kit (H. Pylori) used to treat bacterial infection to the stomach was found going for Sh2,400 in Nakuru County Referral Hospital yet it was bought at Sh480 from Kenya Medical Supplies Authority(Kemsa).

Drug pricing control is one of the areas that Kenya seeks to borrow from Thailand in an agreement signed in January between the two countries on implementation of UHC.

The agreement runs between 2019 and 2021 and covers four areas namely: health technology assessment, insurance, capacity building and human resource.

Thailand Minister for Public Health Dr Piyasakol Sakolsyadorn was in the country over the weekend to share with his Kenya counterpart CS Kariuki how UHC was achieved in his nation.

One of them is charging patients with less serious ailments in cash who self-refer themselves to referral hospitals, instead of being attended to in health centres and dispensaries.

Such a system, said Health Principal Secretary Susan Mochache, if adopted, will strengthen the country's health system which is wanting.

“We are not saying that is what we will do, but we have to find a way how we will handle the influx of patients in referral facilities,” said Mochache.

Mochache said the influx of patients in referral facilities-level five and six-has been informed by lack of enough specialists and equipment in lower tier hospitals.

“We therefore need more Community Health Volunteers and for counties to utilise equiliasation fund to set up health centres and dispensaries especially in the marginalised areas,” said Mochache.

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ThailandSicily KariukiEACCSusan MochacheDrug prices