A member of the public Liu I-Chun wrote to TodayOnline last Wednesday (15 Jan) to point out that different public hospitals were selling the same medication at “drastically different prices”.

Mr Liu’s mother, who has glaucoma, recently found out that she has been paying $45.80 for a 3ml bottle of Lumigan (bimatoprost ophthalmic solution 0.01 per cent) eye drops at National University Hospital (NUH) for some years, while her friend pays only $34.24 for the same bottle at Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH).

In other words, Mr Liu’s mother has been paying $11.56 more for the same medication in NUH compared to TTSH even though both are public hospitals supposedly heavily subsidized by the government.

“Both are private patients from the pioneer generation who buy non-subsidised medication at the two public hospitals,” Mr Liu added.

“While I understand that the two hospitals belong to different clusters, with NUH under the National University Health System and TTSH under the National Healthcare Group, it baffles me why there exists such a huge price disparity of $11.56 or 34 per cent for Lumigan eye drops.”

“I hope that by highlighting this disconcerting discovery, it would lead to NUH adjusting its price downwards and not TTSH increasing its price.” he said.

“The Ministry of Health ought to look into the pricing policies of restructured hospitals in Singapore to ensure that healthcare costs remain affordable and hospitals keep any profit motive in check.”

MOH replies

Director Teh Shi-Hua from the Ministry of Health replied on Monday (20 Jan) acknowledging there are differences in medication pricing across public hospitals.

Director Teh assured the public that Singapore’s public healthcare institutions operate on a “non-profit basis”.

“The Ministry of Health (MOH) monitors the overall bill sizes at public healthcare institutions to ensure that healthcare remains affordable for Singaporeans,” he said.

“The prices of medication at public healthcare institutions can vary, as they take into account the institutions’ respective cost structures and clinical set-ups, which can vary from institution to institution.”

He added that price differences can also occur when medicines are supplied “under different tender contracts, as different tenders carry varying procurement costs”.

The price of medication also includes a component to cover the manpower, operational, maintenance and overhead costs associated with providing the drugs, he said.

“We agree that there should not be unwarranted variation in charges. MOH will work with public healthcare institutions to review their pricing for medication,” he assured.

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