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Taiwanese consume near US$33 m. of subsidized sleeping pills a year

Taiwanese consume near US$33 m. of subsidized sleeping pills a year

Taipei, Oct. 9 (CNA) Taiwan consumes more than NT$1 billion (US$32.93 million) worth of prescription sleeping pills paid for with public funds a year, with many hospitals unknowingly giving overlapping prescription, according to data released by the National Health Insurance (NHI) Administration Thursday. Sleeping pills were in fact the most likely medicine to be repeatedly prescribed within the same NHI-covered hospital. The phenomenon is most common at Taipei Veterans General Hospital, where 1.09 percent of prescriptions were overlapping, the administration said. Zolpidem is the most popular NHI-covered medication for sleeplessness, accounting for 21 percent of all prescription sleeping pills at 300 million a year, followed by estazolam and bromazepam. The drugs are prescribed most by neurology and psychiatry practitioners, said Tsai Wen-chuan, senior health insurance official. He said that divisions that prescribed more than a reasonable amount of medicine could see National Health Insurance reimbursements cut and he called for better self-management. In addition to Taipei Veterans General, Thursday's list named Chiayi Christian Hospital and Kaohsiung Armed Forces General Hospital clinic for the general public for having the second and third highest incidences of overlapping prescriptions, respectively. The best performers, meanwhile, were National Taiwan University Hospital in Taipei and China Medical University Hospital and Kuang Tien General Hospital, both in Taichung. The National Health Insurance Administration began pushing a cloud-based system in July 2013 to prevent abuse of the insurance system by letting doctors and pharmacists check prescription records over the past three months, the administration said. (By Chen Chin-fang and Lilian Wu)