The prices of anesthetics have increased due to supply disruptions, said insiders at some hospitals and dental clinics.
Source: Free Pics
The amount of anesthetic in stock at the National Hospital of Odonto-Stomatology is just about 2,000 tubes, enough for just two weeks. Every day the hospital has to treat about 1,000 patients including two-thirds of outpatient services requiring anesthesia.
The hospital’s director Trần Cao Bình said that of the three types of anesthetic used in dentistry that are supplied to the hospital, there is a scarcity of the specialized dental anesthetic, which contains 2 percent lidocaine.
The hospital contacted other suppliers who provided anesthetic with 4 percent adrenaline as an alternative, adding that it is better and more expensive than the local anesthetic.
Bình said: “There is not only one type of local anesthetic, there is an alternative to protect the interests of the patient and not let treatment be interrupted.”
A specialist in Toronto stomatology, who is working at a private clinic in Hà Nội, said that in the past, South Korean anesthetics cost only about VNĐ400,000 per 100 tubes, but now the price has been pushed up to VNĐ1.5 million, adding that even with higher prices, they still have difficulty in sourcing.
He added: “Meanwhile, with French anesthetics, which used to cost nearly VNĐ700,000 for a box of 50 tubes, now a box costs VNĐ2.6 million. And it is not easy to buy them.”
The price of a box increased to more than VNĐ3 million and it was still challenging to find a supplier.
Currently, two anesthetic drugs originating from France, including Lino-Caine and Adelanin, have suffered a shortage of supply for more than a month. Because they could not buy French pills, some hospitals and clinics had to switch to buying and using Korean ones.
"French drugs have better treatment effects and lower side effects, but due to the scarcity in the market, the prices of some anesthetics used in dentistry have been pushed up by 1.5 times," a doctor said.
The shortage is mainly due to disruptions in supply chains.
Additionally, the current prices of these items compared to the winning bids have increased significantly, so many companies cannot bid at the old prices because they will suffer losses.
According to some hospitals, the cause of the delay in drug supply is that the aesthetics license to import anesthetics expired in March 2022, pending completion of procedures by the Drug Administration of Việt Nam under the Ministry of Health (MoH).
More than 10,000 drug registration papers will expire on December 31, 2022. In 2023, 3,741 registrations will expire, causing persistent drug shortages if the Law on Pharmacy is not quickly revised. According to medical experts, administrative procedures are causing difficulties for businesses, slowing people's access to medicines, and leading to shortages of medicines for medical examination and treatment in some places.
A representative of the MoH said that he had received an official dispatch from the Central Odonto-Stomatology Hospital reflecting the hospital's supply of anesthetics, explaining: “For anesthetic products, there are currently five different registration numbers, so medical facilities can alternate or replace them with other similar drugs.”
“However, even the drug that hospitals say is lacking has still more than 4,000 vials, which could be enough for a few weeks. The Drug Administration of Việt Nam is reviewing the dossier of the importing unit,” said the official, expecting that in the next few days, the import permits of the units will be extended.
Common drug shortages are reported by E Hospital and Hanoi Heart Hospital where they have cut the number of surgeries by 50 percent due to a shortage of Protamine sulfate, a blood-clotting drug that is indispensable in heart surgery.
Experts worry that if surgeries continue as normal, it will be difficult to deal with emergency cases.
At Bạch Mai Hospital, Director Đào Xuân Cơ said that the hospital is entirely confident in procurement if the legal documents are revised in a way that is easy to understand and complete.
“If there are clear legal documents and conditions for transparent and open procurement, managers will certainly not have any difficulty in procuring medical equipment, supplies, and drugs for their patients," said Cơ.
At a recent seminar, Nguyễn Huy Quang, former director of the Legal Department, said that the ministry should urgently amend and issue circulars guiding bidding, informing consultation on drug registration, drug prices, and the procurement of medical equipment, including medical supplies at different levels.
At the same time, the department was reviewing all issues under the authority of the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Finance, and the Ministry of Planning and Investment that have problems, affecting the bidding process.
Quang acknowledged that "the legal mechanism still has some shortcomings."
Quang added there are many other reasons, such as the limited capacity to participate in the bidding, the bid invitation price is low compared to the actual price, so it cannot attract enterprises to participate; the renewal and issuance of registration numbers are slow; the issue of participating in national centralized bidding, national drug negotiation, etc. also have limitations that affect the supply.