Rampant increases in the cost of medicines for insured members of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) are likely to collapse the scheme.
The conclusion was arrived at a National Forum organised by Medicine Transparency Alliance (MeTA) Ghana, in Accra on Thursday, where it was also observed that the real beneficiaries of the scheme were operators in the pharmacy sector.
The Programme Manager of the National Drug Policy, Mrs Martha Gyansa-Lutterodt, observed that the NHIS provided significant boost for the pharmaceutical sector.
She explained that unlike previously where sick people had no access to medicines, insured persons who visited health facilities were provided with drugs which were paid for by the scheme, a situation which tended to help the pharmaceutical manufacturers to boost sales.
But the Director of Claims of the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA), Dr Lydia Dsane-Selby, said if the NHIS was to be sustained, there was the need for the growing amounts of money spent on medicines to be reduced.
In her presentation on “Benefits of MeTA activities to the National Health Insurance Scheme” Dr Dsane-Selby said medicines currently took about 55 per cent of the total claims cost of the NHIS, adding that the cost kept rising.
Giving figures to support her claim, she said in 2005, the NHIA paid GH¢7 million on drugs, with the figure shooting up to GH¢35.5 million in 2006, GH¢79.26 million in 2007 and GH¢140.08 million in 2008.
She said the NHIS was facing challenges when it came to the issue of drugs and mentioned non-adherence to medicines lists by service providers; irrational prescribing; under-dispensing; spurious claims; double billing for parallel programmes, for example drugs for the treatment of malaria, as some of the causes of the high cost of drugs.
Dr Dsane-Selby called for measures that would reduce the increasing cost of medicines under the NHIS to ensure the sustainability of the scheme.
A Senior Technical Advisor to MeTA Ghana, Dr Kojo Arhinful said in Ghana, just like six other countries where the organisation had pilot projects, there was the development of strategies to promote greater transparency and accountability regarding policies, practices and outcomes.
He also touched on the need to promote public awareness and education on medicine access.
Speaking on “Quality Assurance of Medicines in Ghana”, an official of the Food and Drugs Board (FDB), Mr Eric K. Boateng, said the board had the responsibility for ensuring that products were developed correctly, identifying managerial responsibilities and providing standard operating procedures, as well as control.
He also touched on the responsibility of defining controls for all stages of manufacture and packaging to ensure that finished products were correctly processed and checked before they were released onto the market, among other issues.
The chairman for the function, Professor David Ofori-Adjei of the University of Ghana, Legon, said MeTA, which was introduced in Ghana in October, 2008, sought to enhance transparency, accountability and accessibility of medicines.