Leukemia medicine dumped after red tape holds up clearance process in Vietnam

By Le Phuong   May 4, 2017 | 05:15 pm GMT+7

Inspectors said the pills had past their expiry date due to drawn-out customs and pharmaceutical requirements.

A Ho Chi Minh City hospital was forced to jettison nearly 20,000 pills used to treat leukemia in 2015 after prolonged customs procedures and pharmaceutical checks.

Dr. Phu Chi Dung, director of the HCMC Hospital of Hematology and Blood Transfusion, said after some patients developed a resistance to the free medication thay were being prescribed back in 2013, the hospital was forced to look for alternatives.

The answer they came up with was an oral capsule called Tasigna, but it took the Ministry of Health a year to license the new drug, Dung said.

He said his hospital had applied for an import license from the ministry’s Drug Administration in December 2013, but had to wait until June 2014 for the municipal government to approve the drug.

To compound the problem, the drugs didn't make it through customs because there was less than 12 months left on their expiry dates.

The city’s health department had to make a special request and the drugs were finally cleared in August 2014, 10 months before they expired.

When the pills reached the hospital, only 26 of the 200 patients who had developed a resistance to their original free medication were able to afford the medicine.

Dung said his hospital had sought financial aid for the other patients but found little help.

At the beginning of 2015, the ministry agreed to cover 40 percent of the cost for people with more than three years of health insurance coverage, but there was still not enough time to clear all the pills which expired in May 2015.

The city’s health department approved the disposal of 19,997 unused pills in August 2015.

The ministry has ordered an investigation into the matter.