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Private hospitals ordered to display medicine prices

Costs must be shown on website or QR-code chart

Private hospitals are required to display the price of medicines starting next week. (Photo by Patipat Janthong)

Starting next week, private hospitals must display the prices of medicines so that consumers can make better-informed decisions prior to purchase, the government said on Friday.

As well, private hospitals must give patients the opportunity to buy medicines from pharmacies outside the hospital using prescriptions provided by their doctors.

Acting Commerce Minister Chutima Bunyapraphasara made the comment after chairing a meeting of the Central Committee on Prices of Goods and Services, which approved the proposals on Friday.

“Prices of medicines must be shown either on the hospital’s website or via QR codes on a chart displayed clearly at the hospital,” she said.

Those that do not comply could face a fine of up to 10,000 baht and/or one year in jail.

Private hospitals tried to argue earlier that many factors went into medicine pricing, and establishing a one-size-fits-all list of prices was not as easy as it seemed. But authorities insist that the effort to control prices must start with transparency.

There are 30,103 medicines on the Thai Medicine Terminology list. However, only 3,000 medicines, which are widely used under the Universal Coverage for Emergency Patients (Ucep) programme, must have prices displayed at private hospitals.

The programme, which came into effect on April 1, 2017, entitles anyone who requires emergency medical care to treatment at their nearest hospital for up to 72 hours at zero cost.

Regarding prescriptions, private hospitals have to clearly identify medicines — both the trade and scientific or generic name. Failure to comply could lead to a fine of up to 100,000 baht and/or five years in jail.

Ms Chutima said private hospitals must also inform the ministry’s Internal Trade Department of the prices at which they buy and sell medicines. They must also inform the department 15 days in advance or any price increase.

“The committee has considered these measures under the principles of fairness, consumer choice and responsibility,” Ms Chutima said.

The cabinet in January approved a Commerce Ministry proposal to put medical and healthcare expenses on the state price-control list as part of an effort to curb price-gouging amid growing concerns over the high cost of private medical care.

An Internal Trade Department analysis of the cost structure of 3,892 widely used medicines found that 353 private hospitals charged markups ranging from 300% to 900% on top of production costs.

The committee on Friday also approved the establishment of a subcommittee to study the appropriate cost structure for medical supplies and medical service charges nationwide.

Its central working panel is chaired by Whichai Phochanakij, director-general of the Internal Trade Department, while provincial panels will be chaired by provincial governors.

There are 868 items listed as medical supplies and 5,286 as medical services.