Patients forced to buy additives, doctors earn 40%

Published: 13/04/2011 05:00



Although the Ministry of Health prohibits doctors from prescribing nutritional additives known as functional cookings that have no medicinal attributes, many famous hospitals still flout the ban, leading to an inflated bill many times beyond its true medical worth.

On March 25, Nguyen Thi H., 56, came to the famous Bach Mai Hospital in Hanoi for an examination and was diagnosed with brain disorder.

Her prescription has only two kinds of ‘drugs’: Lexo… 6mg, 20 tablets costing VND80,000 per 30-pill packet and Sinocit which is technically not a medicine but just a functional food.

To her amazement, H found out that Sinocit costs an astronomical VND28,000 per pill, making her prescriptions jump to VND1.2 million (US$60).

Ironically, the true medicinal drugs cost just 1/12th of the total bill while, according to this prescription, the majority of the money is to be spent on just foods, which could be replaced by proper nutrition much cheaper.

A regulation from the Ministry of Health issued in April 2008 bans doctors from prescribing such functional foods.

71 year old Nguyen thi T., on March 29 was admitted to a big hospital suffering from high blood pressure, bronchial asthma, and cerebral infarction.

Her prescription comprises four types, three of which are true medications while the remaining one is functional food Pomilus 0,25 which costs VND930,000 per 30-pill packet, three times more expensive than the drugs themselves.

T was told that the foods serve to boost the immune system.

There are many similar foods much cheaper like an Oriental herbs made from rare cordyceps roberti selling for VND650,000 per packet.

At the National Hospital of Pediatrics, also in Hanoi, vitamins, enzymes enhancing appetites, immune system booster foods, even brain tonics appear in numerous prescriptions.

Popular are Cold Shield, an immune system enhancing food priced at VND420,000 per bottle or PS 100, an awareness enhancing brain tonic selling for an exorbitant VND800,000 per 30-pill bottle.

One patient even had the luck to be prescribed 10 bottles of functional foods each costing over VND1 million, as Tuoi Tre found out.

In one case, this prestigious pediatrics hospital prescribed a locally produced food containing vitamin D3, vitamin B1 and lysine that is sold for VND94,000 per bottle.

However, Tuoi Tre found that a similar product imported from Indonesia costs just VND16,000 per bottle.

Even at that, the price is too inflated, revealed a pharmacy expert.

“Looking at the ingredients, I am sure this costs no higher than VND10,000 per bottle”, this pharmacist added.

40 percent payout

A source told Tuoi Tre authorities are inspecting expensive functional foods that are frequently prescribed.

According to an expert from the health ministry, the products under scanner are those claimed to be imported from Los Angeles (US) and Germany. Many of them do not have certificates of origin.

This official suspects they are not sourced from the West but could have been made in China and packaged right in Vietnam.

Unlike drugs whose prices are monitored by the government, functional foods are not considered medication and have no state-imposed ceiling prices. Hence, their prices are mostly buoyed up, this official added.

Another health expert told Tuoi Tre such foods have little medical attributes so could not compete well with drugs on the market.

To survive, they must be endorsed by doctors who, via prescriptions, force patients to buy unnecessary foods at cut throat rates.

Patients must purchase them no matter how expensive they are since most don’t know which are drugs essential for their recovery and which are functional foods having health promoting effects only, this official complained.

According to a source, doctors that illicitly prescribed them earn no less than 40% in ‘commission’ on their prices.

Functional food or medicinal food is any healthy food claimed to have a health-promoting or disease-preventing property beyond the basic function of supplying nutrients.

The general category of functional foods includes processed food or foods fortified with health-promoting additives, like “vitamin-enriched” products.

Fermented foods with live cultures are considered functional foods with probiotic benefits.

Source: Tuoi Tre

Provide by Vietnam Travel

Patients forced to buy additives, doctors earn 40% - Health - News |  vietnam travel company

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