Hospitals are no longer the only place to buy medicines covered by medical insurance in Shanghai. As of this week, local residents with certain medical insurance can go to nine designated drug stores with their medical insurance cards.
Under the new system, the retailers, located in various districts, are now authorized to sell prescriptive medicines and over the counter ones (OTC).
Three of the stores belong to the No 1 Pharmacy Co Ltd, and the other six belong to Shanghai Huashi Pharmacy Company Ltd.
About 1,400 kinds of medicines are covered by the insurance, including 135 different OTC ones.
Patients can buy those after showing their medical insurance cards. But prescriptive medicines are strictly controlled. “Only with doctors’ prescriptions and after three days have gone by can drug stores sell prescriptive medicines,” said Sheng Jianguo, manager of the central branch of Shanghai Huashi Pharmacy Co Ltd. The prescriptions also have to be stamped with the seals of the hospitals and doctors concerned.
The payment system at the nine stores is directly linked to the central medical insurance computer system in the city’s Medical Insurance Bureau.
The cost of the medicine is deducted from citizens’ individual medical accounts so they do not have to pay cash up front.
The network is also linked to the city’s 500-plus hospitals and 20 medical insurance management companies. The new system covers about 6 million citizens in the city.
The new designated drug stores have been welcomed by local people, especially senior citizens.
“The drug store is near my office,” said Ni Feng, “so I need not go to the hospital to buy medicine.”
In the last two days, the stores have been flooded by customers. In Huashi’s central branch, there were lines of customers waiting in front of the counters.
However, there are problems. Some complain that many patients do not understand the procedures involved in getting prescriptive medicines.
Health offices and drug stores have sent lots of publicity materials about OTC medicine to local people. Citizens can find out about them through computers in drug stores and hospitals.
But quite a lot of people are confused about the difference between OTC and prescriptive medicines.
“We have to explain to customers again and again who come to buy medicines without prescriptions,” said Shen Yiqian, a pharmacist in Linglin Drug Store.
(China Daily 01/09/2001)