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Hospitals Reform to Cut Costs

In response to persistent complaints about the high cost of drugs at hospitals in China, the country will begin a pilot program in Beijing to reform the way in-hospital pharmacies operate.

The move, which is considered a key reform for the country's health system, will be launched within the year, the State Drug Administration announced at the fifth National Pharmacist Week, which started Sunday in Shanghai.

The administration said the trials will be expanded to other major cities later, adding that "the separation must be launched in China because patients have long complained about high medical costs, especially the high price of medicine."

Currently, drug sales are a primary source of income for hospitals, usually accounting for half of an institution's revenue, which results in some facilities taking com-missions from pharmaceutical suppliers to prescribe their drugs and others to push unnecessarily expensive drugs.

"To regulate medical services and provide patients with high-quality but cheap service, we will try to improve the charging system by splitting the out-patient pharmacy from hospitals," said Cao Wenzhuang, secretory-general of the China Pharmaceutical Association.

"Thus, the hospital's drugstore can become a normal drug retailer just like other pharmacies, paying tax and participating in the market competition," Cao added.

The pilot program will also give patients the right to buy their drugs wherever they choose, unlike the current setup which grants in-hospital pharmacies a near monopoly on dispensing prescri-ption drugs.

"Because of the separation between medical services and drug sales, in-hospitable service, which has been a long-time complaint of many customers, will be improved when pharmacists in hospital drugstores transfer their responsibility from only fulfilling pre-scriptions to guaranteeing safety and reasonability for patients to take medicine," said Huang Zhongyi, a pharmacist at Shanghai Jing'an District Central Hospital.

The meeting in Shanghai, which runs through Wednesday, saw 800 pharmacists and medcial experts from around the nation vow to enhance service quality and improve pharmaceutical care for patients.

(eastday.com May 27, 2002)

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