The 13th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) High-Level Meeting on Health and the Economy and the Second Health Working Group (HWG) Meeting of the year were convened in Seattle, USA from August 3 to August 6, 2023. The Minister of Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW), Jui-Yuan Hsueh, personally led the representative team of Taiwan made up of the head of relevant offices. Discussions in the meeting focused on key health issues in the Asian-Pacific region, especially about enhancing the resilience of healthcare systems to face various challenges in the post-pandemic era. During the meeting, representatives of Taiwan proactively participated in the discussions and joined multiple policy dialogues to strive to be in line with international standards.
The MOHW said that dialogues took place between Taiwan and the Asia Pacific Health Coalition (APHC), focusing on ways to consolidate public-private collaborations to enhance healthcare resilience. The APHC is made up of 16 organizations, including health and life science associations and international pharmaceutical companies, all of which have a long history of coordinating relevant industries and supporting APEC forums on health and life sciences. In the dialogue, the APHC emphasized their concerns on the following issues: 1) They expect Taiwan to increase investments in healthcare to facilitate the introduction of new drugs and new technology, as well as the expansion of drug indications to bring the benefits of newly emerged healthcare technology to Taiwanese people early on. Additionally, establishing a public guidance for NHI payment arrangements while implementing confidentiality agreement to ensure transparency and clarity for relevant procedure and make it easier to follow; 2) Regarding healthcare challenges accompanying the aging population, the APHC wishes to deepen their collaboration with Taiwan in vaccination, healthy aging, and supply chain resilience.
The responses of the Minister Jui-Yuan Hsueh of MOHW are as follows: 1) Introducing new drugs, new materials, and new technologies, as well as improving review efficiency are top priorities for Taiwanese government. In the past, a two-step process was adopted and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) must approve and issue a drug permit license, before National Health Insurance Administration (NHIA) can begin the review process for reimbursement. To speed up the process, a parallel review procedure will be adopted to allow the FDA and the NHIA to carry out the review process simultaneously; 2) currently, the NHI budget always has a certain amount set aside to invest in new drugs, materials, and technologies. However, help from the private sector is expected to allow relevant budgets to be listed in the global budget of the previous year. In addition, the establishment of a Cancer Drugs Fund is being studied to obtain more resources and flexibilities for cancer treatments in Taiwan; 3) in terms of changes in healthcare demands caused by the aging population, such as an increasing emphasis on the prevention and treatment of chronic diseases, a reform of the system is taking place to provide holistic, throughout, and effective care. At the same time, Taiwan is facing the problem of a low birth rate, which means more resources will be put into healthcare for children. However, particular dosages and specifications of drugs are required for children and the amount used is usually small, the supply of drugs and materials for children is often unstable. We hope the private sector can establish a mechanism where productions can be carried out on demand or give distribution priorities to Taiwan. If price negotiation is required, the NHIA shall do their best to help.
The MOHW said that during the meeting, several economies have voiced their support for Taiwan's commitment in "One Health" and applauded Taiwan's leading position in "Digital Health" and the work of preventing and treating cervical cancer. In the future, the APEC platform shall continue to facilitate our communication with the global society. Moreover, an effective operation of public-private collaborations shall enhance Taiwan's healthcare system resilience and build a sustainable ecosystem health to provide holistic and throughout care for all Taiwanese people.