Rough Cuts | Hitting the nail on the head

Councilor Mary Joselle Villafuerte, council committee on health chair, is definitely hitting the proverbial nail right on the head.

This, when she boldly said that most advertisements by manufacturers of certain cure-all herbal medicines cum food supplement need to be regulated as the claims are merely based on “anecdotal evidence and not on scientific research.”

Actually it is not anymore uncommon to hear in all radio stations and see on television programs advertisements promoting this and that herbal medicines and food supplements. In fact while there is always a disclaimer in the ads saying that the products are not medicines and therefore should not be used as treatment to illnesses, almost if not all ad scripts say that it can cure or prevent numerous ailments that even include the most dreaded ones like cancer and cardiovascular infirmities.

In fact, some manufacturers of certain products are so aggressive in their marketing strategy that they are already earning billions of pesos and have even invaded international markets. There are also “newbies” that are seeking their own niche in the Philippine market where a good number of people have become gullible despite the availability of information sources. Yes, instead of people getting pretty aware of what they are likely to risk when patronizing still not scientifically validated effectiveness of some so-called herbal medicines through the various modern information platform, the manufacturers and marketers of the medicinal products are the ones using the social media to the hilt.

Of course that is one of the many freedoms provided our citizens by the Constitution — freedom of enterprise. And there are many enterprising individuals among us.

But apparently, in the opinion of some discerning Filipinos possibly including our medical doctor councilor from the third district, the unbridled exercise of such freedom of enterprise and of expression using various media, now seems to endanger the health of the people.

Thus, despite the existence of Republic Act 8423 or the Traditional and Alternative Medicine Act of 1997, Councilor Villafuerte finds it important to pass certain enabling ordinance to implement the national law within the jurisdiction of the city government.

The councilor is right. The health of the people, including the close to two million Davaoenos, is at stake in the free-for-all marketing of herbal medical products. So aggressive are other manufacturers that the customers are easily goaded to patronize the food supplements cum medicines without even looking into whether or not the products are certified by the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA). They are mesmerized by the ad campaign and the superior packaging.

It is this massive gains of the herb-derived medical or food supplement products in the market that could have prodded the lady councilor to introduce a proposed ordinance that aims to regulate the selling, manufacture, and advertising of such products in the city.

And rightly so, because the Department of Health has not yet added to the number of endorsed herb-sourced medicines. So far there are still 10. But according to the councilor herbs-derived products supposedly food supplements but claiming to be cure-all are already proliferating in the market. These products are even conspicuously displayed in racks of leading pharmaceutical stores armed only of the FDA disclaimer that these “have no therapeutic value.”

However, as to the question of the efficacy of the herbal medicines or food supplements councilor Villafuerte is emphatic that there is no public knowledge as to whether or not the products underwent a rigid scientific study before these are allowed to be sold in public outlets.

Her position on the matter is being supported by a statement issued by a well-known nephrologist Dr. Vida Acosta-Villanueva who claimed there is an increase in the creatinine level of patients who admitted having used herbs-sourced medicine aka food supplement.

Councilor Joselle, we are four squares behind your efforts. We hope you can move your proposal without much humps along the way. Your planned ordinance could be the most important intervention to put the production and marketing of alternative medicines in its ideal order especially in Davao City.

Posted in Opinion