Many hospitals in the southern region are worried about a shortage of hydroxyethyl starch used intravenously to treat shock caused by dengue fever even as the disease has entered its peak season.
Vo Pham Trong Nhan, head of general planning at the Nguyen Dinh Chieu Hospital in the Mekong Delta province of Ben Tre, said the Drug Administration of Viet Nam had made it part of the dengue treatment regime, and his hospital had used 90-100 bottles last month.
Only another 20-odd bottles remain, he said.
The head of the hospital’s pharmaceutical department had borrowed 65 bottles from other hospitals, but they would only last three weeks to two months, he added.
Bui Quoc Tuan, head of the pharmaceutical department at the Dong Nai Paediatrics Hospital, said last month 300 bottles were required compared to only 100-130 bottles normally.
The hospital had ordered nearly 300 bottles from a company that supplies throughout the country, but the company had replied it could not supply any more because its import licence had expired, he said.
The remaining stock would last less than a month, and so it might have to transfer patients with severe dengue fever to hospitals in HCM City, he added.
It borrowed 20 bottles from Paediatrics Hospital 1 in HCM City, but their use would not be covered by health insurance since they were not bought based on bidding as required by the Ministry of Health.
Dr Le Bich Lien, deputy director of the HCM City Paediatrics Hospital 1, said his hospital too would not have enough hydroxyethyl starch if provincial hospitals send their patients to it.
Many other hospitals in HCM City are heading for a shortage.
Paediatrics Hospital 2 has 60 bottles left and the Hospital for Tropical Diseases, nearly 50.
According to the Department of Health, based on the requirements last year city hospitals invited tenders this year, but no company has responded.
The department has written to the Ministry of Health to seek permission to use alternative drugs in case of a shortage of hydroxyethyl starch.
Tuan said the Drug Administration of Viet Nam should place the drug in the list of rare medicines to make import licences easy.
The administration said in a press release that demand for it in producing countries is low and so production is limited.
It said it would soon grant permission to import this drug again and has instructed companies about procedures to import in time to meet hospitals’ demand.
The HCM City Preventive Medicine Centre reported 7,833 cases of dengue last month, 18 per cent higher than in July.
In Ben Tre Province, more than 900 people have contracted the disease this year, 148 per cent up from the same period last year.
Dong Nai Province has seen a 260 per cent increase to more than 14,500. VNS