Drug is so expensive

PUBLISHED : Friday, 26 December, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 26 December, 1997, 12:00am

For more than three years I have suffered from Myasthenia Gravis (MG), a neuro-muscular auto-immune disease, which although fairly uncommon affects many people of all ethnic groups and ages.

Fortunately I have now been in a stable condition for some time due to a regular and essential intake of, inter alia, Pyridostigmine Bromide tablets (Mestinon) prescribed by my consultant neurologist; these are not new drugs and have been in regular use for the treatment of MG patients for more than 40 years.

However the Hong Kong agents, Edward Keller Ltd, for this Roche product, are imposing a retail local charge for a single 60-milligram Mestinon tablet of about $8, say $32 per day or $960 per month, on a commonly prescribed daily maintenance prescription of 240mg. The monthly cost to patients is often considerably higher due to the necessity to take other tablets, such as Azathioprine, another expensive drug.

I understand that this same supplier charges the Hospital Authority only a very small fraction of the above, the tablets costing the authority less than the UK retail price of $1.10 which clearly demonstrates that the Hong Kong general public is being charged too much for this drug.

The Consumer Council and the Provisional Legislative Council should take urgent action to recommend/implement regulatory measures to prevent continuing excessive charges being imposed on the general public (which many can ill-afford) for long-term life-sustaining prescribed drugs, in particular for those that have been in use worldwide for lengthy periods. Perhaps a scheme of control could be considered to restrict unfair charges/profits in respect of essential drugs provided by sole suppliers.

In the meantime I hope that the local agents will have the courtesy to provide a detailed explanation to justify the exorbitant charges that are levied on the general public for the drug Mestinon and confirmation that the costs to the Hospital Authority are not being subsidised by private patients.