With the portal, which currently comprises nearly 4,200 stores out of 62,000 across Vietnam, users can easily look up the use, price and origins of available drugs, as well as receive up-to-date warnings from health authorities about medicines of questionable quality.
Speaking at the launch event and the accompanying conference on incorporating information technology in nationwide drug supply held in the northern province of Hung Yen, Health Minister Nguyen Thi Kim Tien deemed the launch of the portal a ‘landmark development’ in the country’s drug supply.
The move is in line with the Vietnamese Government’s national strategy on pharmacy development towards 2020-30 that set goals of “ensuring stable supply of high-quality drugs for all Vietnamese people” and striving for “safe, proper and effective use of drugs,” she said.
Minister Tien said that the scheme seeks to remedy a plethora of issues facing the country’s drug supply.
The rampant sale and purchase of drugs without doctors’ prescriptions, especially antibiotics, has led to increasing risks of antibiotic resistance through misuse and overuse, putting Vietnam among countries with the highest rate of the phenomenon, she said.
She also lamented the current state of drug distribution in Vietnam, saying that there are too many “intermediary layers” which cause disproportionately inflated prices and difficulties in tracing the origins of products.
To address these issues, the health ministry has adopted a project to strengthen management of prescriptions and sale of prescription drugs in the 2017-20 period.
The ministry is also preparing to make it a legal obligation for all drug stores to connect to a common network (those who deliberately fail to follow this regulation might even have their licences revoked), and conduct piloting of the drug store portal in selected provinces – namely Phu Tho, Hung Yen, Vinh Phuc and Nam Dinh.
The initial success of the pilot project has encouraged the implementation of the scheme, which has now seen 25 provinces and centrally-directed municipalities across the country joining the network, with the participation of nearly 4,200 retail drug stores and an archive of 22,000 electronic prescriptions.
Increased transparency in drug sales would benefit both consumers and concerned authorities, minister Tien said.
Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam stressed that the portal is expected to “remove undesired activities and fraud,” and asked the health ministry to ramp up information campaigns about the scheme.
The next step the health ministry must focus on is the development of electronic medical records for all citizens, he said.
Up to 71.15 percent of all drug stores in the country have internet access, but only 48 percent actually use computer software to manage sales, according to the health ministry.