Overpriced meds and supplies in Bukidnon hospital blamed on market prices of big pharmacies

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/ 11 August) — Prices of medicines and supplies at the Bukidnon Provincial Medical Center and other provincial government-run hospitals are based on “prevailing prices of the pharmacies within the locality preferably Mercury and Rose pharmacies as benchmark,” Oscar Belderol, chief of the Provincial Economic Enterprise Development and Management Office (PEEDMO) said.

Belderol, in his report to Governor Jose Ma. R. Zubiri Jr. on August 6, said the provincial hospitals use “uniform pricing” which cannot be easily adjusted as it is installed by the provincial information technology personnel based on a price agreement among hospital pharmacists in an earlier meeting. Belderol said the pricing mechanism was set before he took over PEEDMO earlier this year.

He said they need to keep the prices at par with prevailing market levels even if the provincial government owns the hospitals because they have to keep its operations “sustainable” as an economic enterprise.

He proposed that the PEEDMO will conduct a review and assessment on the “appropriateness of the existing policies on pricing of medicines and medical supplies for all provincial hospitals.”

PEEDMO oversees the operation of the BPMC and other provincial hospitals, which the Capitol considers among its “economic enterprises.”

Patients at the BPMC earlier reported about alleged overpricing of a list of medicines and supplies compared to drugstores outside the BPMC.

Cefuroxime, an antibiotic used to treat a wide variety of bacterial infections, costs about P225 each or P675 for three vials at the BPMC. A piece of syringe is at least P10 each.

But the prescription of the same brand of the antibiotic when presented to a pharmacy just outside the gate of the hospital, the A & L Pharma costs way only P80 each or P240 for three vials.

Syringe in that drugstore costs only P9 each or P27 for three. A 1000 milliliter (ml) pack of Dextrose in lactated ringers costs P150 at BPMC but only P90 at the same pharmacy.

This reporter posted the observations on August 3 on social network Facebook, which caught the attention of provincial officials. Zubiri immediately ordered Belderol for an investigation. Belderol sought the explanation of hospital chief Dr. Sulpicio Henry Legaspi Jr on August 5.

On August 6, Ma. Cecilia Pontillas, BPMC pharmacist in a letter to Belderol, noted by Legaspi, said it was PEEDMO who met the pharmacists and facilitated the agreement for uniform pricing, which will be based on prevailing market prices, particularly Rose and Mercury drug stores.

Based on a canvass report presented to this reporter Thursday by Hansel Echaves, head of the provincial government’s information office, Cefuroxime, P225 per vial at BPMC and P80 at the drugstore outside BPMC; costs P301.64 in Rose Pharmacy, P302 in Mercury Drug, P305 in Bupharco, and P180 in Rojon Pharmacy. It was not clear in the report if they canvassed for the same brand.

The BPMC price is much lower than the leading drug stores but almost three folds higher than that in the drugstore just outside BPMC.

For the same requirement of the Dextrose, what costs P150 per unit at the BPMC and P90 at the drugstore outside BPMC, costs P102.90 at Rose Pharmacy, P118 at Mercury Drug, and P99 at Bupharco.

The Dextrose variety in the list is most expensive at the BPMC.

Belderol cited the need to consider in the pricing benchmark the prices of medicines and supplies of the drug stores near the BPMC, which is the most accessible to most patients.

He vowed further investigation “shall be conducted based on the facts presented and the merits of the allegation.” (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)