Editorial | Access to Medicines a Basic Right

THE PHILIPPINES continues to have one of the highest costs of pharmaceutical products in Asia.

The Generic Act of 1998 and Cheaper and Quality Medicines Act in 2008 tipped the scales on the poor’s favor by making available life-saving medicines to those who can’t afford the branded drugs, which are selling from 50% and up to 80% of the prices of generic brands.

Still, it’s not enough.

Part of it is culture as people from the fringes trust the resident albularyo more than a doctor. A major reason, however, is the cost.

Even with the availability of generic brands, the poor are still not going to spend the money intended for food to buy medicines. Those suffering from chronic diseases are even worse off. A household survey conducted by WHO in 2009 revealed that families in the Philippines spend an average of P946 on maintenance drugs for chronic illnesses. They also don’t have a health insurance that would have unburdened their already tight household budgets.

Thrust into that situation, it’s no wonder that most of the poor become fatalistic.

Of course, the lack of access to medicines is the sole problem of the Philippines. According to the World Health Organization, almost two billion people across the globe have no access to medicines. This opens the floodgate for a host of other problems like infant and childbirth mortality, providing pain relief, and curbing preventable diseases.

It is in this light that we welcome the initiative of the city government, under the Lingap program, and the DOH to make free medicines available to the public through the Botika ng Bayan. Lingap program OIC Josephine Mitaran promised that the public pharmacy will always have a one-month buffer supply of medicines.

What makes the initiative even more commendable is that the Botika ng Bayan won’t refuse non-Davaoenos when they request for medicines.

But Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio said the first Botika ng Bayan located in the Lingap compound near the Southern Philippines Medical Center is just the start.

“I asked (DOH) Asec. (Abdullah) Dumama if they can also put up a Botika ng Bayan in our 17 districts (and) his response was positive. I told our City Health Office to coordinate with DOH,”

Here’s hoping that the program will gain traction to reach as many poor families as possible.

Posted in Opinion