Monday, 10 February 2014

China's media lauds the "4 cent prescription doctor"

The Chinese-language version of the China Daily is lauding a Henan doctor who prescribed a treatment for a child's rash (an antihistamine) that cost only 4 cents. The cheap cure is seen as big news at a time when many Chinese are complaining about the high costs of medical treatment. The story is based on the overwhelming web response to the Weibo posting of a mother of a two-year-old child, who posted that she couldn't believe how cheap it had been for her child's treatment.
The Weibo post described how she took her child to see a doctor at the Zhengzhou People's Hospital No 3 paediatrics department. The female doctor there told her the rash was due to an allergy and she would prescribe an antihistamine called chlorpheniramine. Based on her previous experience with hospitals, the mother expected to pay several hundred yuan for a long course of medicines - and so she was very surprised when she only had to pay 4 fen for 4 tablets of the antihistamine. She was so impressed that she took a photo of her hospital bill. She was also doubtful that such a cheap treatment could work, and so was again surprised when her child made a quick recovery from the rash.
When she posted this on Weibo, her story and photo was immediately re-posted thousands of times, with netizens starting an online discussion about the high cost of treatment and the difficulties of getting to see a doctor. Many praised the doctor at the children's hospital and said such doctors were hard to find these days.
When a China Daily reporter tracked down Dr Qin Ruijuan, she said her 4 cent prescription was nothing special and that she had only been doing her duty. "Any other doctor in my position would have done the same thing," she said. Dr Qin said the antihistamine was the most appropriate drug for the condition and only a short course was needed.
Dr Qin said some patients believed that doctors made a lot of money in commissions when prescribing drugs and treatments, but this was not the case. She said there was no link between doctors' incomes and treatments ate her hospital, nor were there any targets or quotas.
The China Daily reporter wrote that this was supposed to be the case at all hospitals and a new directive from the National Health and Family Planing Commission issued in December had re-iterated this rule. This included a new series of prohibited practices in healthcare, known as the 'Nine Forbiddens' included taking commissions or kickbacks from prescribing and having quotas  or targets for treatments and prescriptions.
However, the reporter noted that there was a trend for hospitals to stock newer and more expensive medications at the expense of cheaper medicines . This led to a situation where it was impossible for doctor to prescribe affordable medicines because they were not stocked by the pharmacy. And because the profits were so tiny with cheap drugs "manufacturers don't want to make them, pharmacies don't want to sell them and doctors don't want to use them".

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