The National Health Insurance Administration (NHI) is considering revoking free medication refills, after finding that tons of medicine are discarded by patients in the August-September period alone around Taiwan.
According to NHI Deputy Director-General Ms Tsai Su-ling, there are over 10 million people with chronic illnesses in Taiwan, 6.6 million of whom have been prescribed medication for their condition. The problem, as the NHI has found, is that many of these prescription holders do not take their medicine, leading to a waste of resources, reported the Central News Agency.
In the August-September period, the NHI found a total of 5.8 tons of wasted medication from 24 medical centres and 84 hospitals across the island. This amounts to a projected 69 tons of medication discarded every year.
Of the wasted medication, drugs for treating hypertension, hyperglycemia and hyperlipidemia, all of which are chronic illnesses, are most commonly returned unused to hospitals or discarded.
To combat the wastage, the NHI is considering revoking a perk that allows those with chronic illnesses to refill their prescriptions up to three times at no charge. Currently, individuals with illnesses pay for 20% of their medication costs up to NT$200 (US$6.50), while individuals with chronic illnesses do not.
The discussion comes at a time when government funding to cover health insurance is expected to run out as early as 2020. Even with adjustments made to the insurance premium rate, funds in the Taiwan's healthcare system are still expected to be insufficient by 2021.