18 October 2019
Some mainland patients at Queen Mary Hospital reportedly asked to be prescribed with expensive drugs. Photo: HKEJ
Some mainland patients at Queen Mary Hospital reportedly asked to be prescribed with expensive drugs. Photo: HKEJ

Drugs from public hospitals said to be resold in mainland

Some enterprising mainlanders appear to have found a more lucrative business than parallel trading of infant formula and household goods.

It’s buying expensive drugs from specialist outpatient (SOP) clinics of public hospitals in Hong Kong and reselling them across the border for huge profits, Apple Daily reported.

The alleged scheme was divulged by lawmaker Kwok Ka-ki in a question addressed to Secretary for Food and Health Ko Wing-man.

The Hospital Authority buys drugs from pharmaceutical firms in bulk and therefore at a lower cost.

So even if self-financing patients, such as mainlanders and other non-residents, buy them from a government hospital, the drugs still cost a lot cheaper that in commercial pharmacies and clinics.

It was learned that many private patients at Queen Mary Hospital are from the mainland, and they opt to be prescribed with expensive drugs, such as Harvoni, a drug to treat chronic hepatitis C that could cost HK$520,000 per course of treatment, a source was quoted as saying.

Some patients then resell the drugs on the mainland for a huge profit, the source said.

In a written reply to the legislator, the health secretary said there is no evidence that self-financed drugs were being resold for a profit. Still, he promised to conduct an investigation.

Ko admitted that self-financed patients at government SOP clinics pay for the drugs at cost, plus an administrative charge of HK$50 for each item.

But he noted that it is the policy of the Hospital Authority for doctors to prescribe appropriate drugs in sufficient quantities according to the patient’s condition.

According to the documents submitted to the Legilslative Council, Queen Mary Hospital provided 22 percent more private patient services over the past five years.

Drugs expenditures for such patients doubled to HK$86 million in 2014-2015 from HK$39 million in 2010-2011.

The Prince of Wales Hospital also saw such expenditures rise by 45 percent to HK$16 million in 2014-2015 from HK$11 million in 2010-2011.

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