The Ministry of Health and Welfare has recently sounded out the intentions of pharmaceutical firms whether they would join the government’s smoking cessation program with the subsidized price of anti-smoking treatments.
The government offered the price at 1,100 won ($0.97) per pill. Industry watchers are paying attention to whether Pfizer, which has been selling its monopolistic antismoking treatment Champix (varenicline) at 1,800 won per tablet, would agree to sell it at the lowered price.
Champix took up about 98.7 percent of the antismoking treatments in the government’s smoking cessation program.
If Pfizer boycotts the program due to the lowered price, the government’s program will be in trouble. However, Pfizer will find it difficult not to participate in the program, as other incrementally modified drugs (IMD) of Champix will arrive in the market on Wednesday.
Lee Jung-kyu, head of the health and welfare ministry’s insurance benefit division, explained about the government’s smoking cessation support program in a meeting with reporters.
The list of nicotine-fighting drugs under the program includes Pfizer Korea’s Champix, GSK’s Wellbutrin (bupropion), and Hanmi Pharmaceutical’s Nicopion (bupropion).
Champix dominated the government’s program in 2017, with 98.7 percent, or 50.7 billion won, paid to Pfizer out of the total 51.4 billion won medical expenses for the program. On Wednesday, however, the ministry will have a wide range of choices for antismoking treatments, as 30-60 IMDs of Champix are scheduled to be released.
“The latest parliamentary audit found that some of Champix, used for the smoking cessation program, were sold online illegally. Lawmakers said the government has to estimate the financing again, with the upcoming release of IMDs of Champix,” Lee said.
Drugmakers offered 1,100 won to the government, and the National Health Insurance Service notified the price to the industry, he said. “If they agree on the offered price, their antismoking treatments will be listed on the government’s program,” he added.
Lee went on to say that the government planned to improve the entire process of the smoking cessation support program.
“We have to check whether patients successfully quit smoking. But we cannot confirm this only by a self-survey, and we can’t check if the patients kept the right dose after getting prescription,” Lee said.
He went on to say, “Because it is hard to check the effects of the program, we will have to evaluate whether the current support protocol was appropriate. We’re trying to reduce the size of the program and review it.”