Hospital Strike Averted

By Jherlyn Meneses/

MANILA — The planned hospital holiday by medical practitioners on Sunday, Jan. 27, will not push through after the Department of Health (DOH) and the Philippine Medical Association (PMA) reached a compromise on Thursday over a contested provision in the Cheaper Medicines bill.

The agreement was made possible by Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and PMA President Jose Sabili in a meeting in Quezon City. During the meeting, Duque showed Sabili and other PMA officers a Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey showing 54 percent of respondents who are using generic medicines. As such, Duque said there is no need for the Cheaper Medicines Bill to contain the provision allowing the prescription of only generic medicines.

House Bill 2844 would require doctors to write down only the generic names of drugs on their prescriptions to their patients. The House version aims mainly to lower the prices of medicine by setting up a drug price regulatory board. The Senate version of the bill however focuses on allowing the importation of cheaper medicine to generate competition and bring down local drug prices.

The Philippine Medical Association had threatened to stage a hospital holiday over the generics-only provision. They prefer the current system where doctors are required to write down both the generic and brand names of drugs on their prescriptions.

Dr. Geneve Rivera, Deputy Secretary-General of Health Alliance for Democracy (Head), said that while the group fully supports PMA’s stand, it does not compel its members to join the planned holiday, nor sanction those who will join the action. The group, which is composed of individual health practitioners and medical organizations, cannot impose upon its 300-strong members a particular course of action on the issue.

Rivera said it will be unfair to patients if doctors try to make their point at the expense of their patients.

“Categorically, we support the action of the doctors against the ill conceived ‘generics only prescription’ suggested by HB 2844. The ‘generics only provision’ does not give the immediate and effective solution of lowering drug prices,” Rivera said.

“The authors of HB 2844 should examine thoroughly the reasons why drug prices are exorbitantly unaffordable in the Philippines. One reason is that the drug industry is monopolized by transnational and multinational drug companies. Another is that there is no regulation of drug prices,” Rivera said.

“Also the government should not be let off the hook. The ill implementation of the Generics Act, the failure of Bureau of Food and Drugs (BFAD) to evaluate and monitor generic drug manufacture/production which led to the lack of confidence in generic drugs by the doctors and even patients. The issue should be redirected to dismantling the monopoly of the multinationals and transnationals over the drug industry and the lack of resolve of the government to control drug prices,” she added

Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye, meanwhile, called on “all parties concerned to take into consideration the welfare of our patients, especially the poor patients”.

He said that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was for reducing the price of medicine to affordable levels and pushed for the establishment of the Botika ng Bayan (Pharmacy of the People) outlets, which have been selling affordable medicines, including imported generic brands.


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