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Letter to the Editor:
Inquirer.Net : http://opinion.inquirer.net/inquireropinion/letterstotheeditor/view_article.php?article_id=104447
Philippine Star: http://www.philstar.com/index.php?Letters%20to%20the%20Editor&p=49&type=2&sec=127&aid=20071205160

MANILA, Philippines – We are glad that the Philippine College of Physicians (PCP) expressed, in a full-page advertisement, their unqualified support for the efforts to bring down the cost of medicines. (Inquirer, 11/25/07) However, we believe that their fears about the effects of a Cheaper Medicine law on therapeutic efficacy and safety are unfounded and are non-sequitur.

First of all, the Cheaper Medicine bill seeks to address the lack of affordable medicines for Filipinos. It does not replace the physicians’ authority and responsibility in determining the appropriate and safe treatment for their patients with the “practice-of-medicine-at-the-drugstore-counter,” as PCP alleges. In fact, the Cheaper Medicine bill seeks to broaden the medical treatment and options available for both the physicians and their patients by making medicines more accessible and affordable to the public.

PCP’s argument—that making medicines affordable would undermine drug safety and efficacy—has no basis in fact. No less than the World Health Organization (WHO) has been actively campaigning for the use of generic equivalent to medical treatment, even encouraging physicians to issue prescriptions using generic names only.

Surely the members of PCP will not deny the fact that one of the reasons why most Filipinos have not followed prescribed treatment is because of their lack of capacity to buy prescribed medicines. Statistical data show that in 2006, a meager 2.9 percent is being spent on medical care by a Filipino family. Most of the branded medicines that are prescribed by physicians for the Top 10 leading causes of morbidity in the Philippines have equivalent generic preparations that have been proven to be just as effective and safe as their branded counterpart.

The members of PCP while claiming to support the spirit behind the Cheaper Medicines bill have totally misunderstood its principles. The bill goes beyond the issue of generic versus branded medicines. It means to uphold the right of patients to choose, and have access to affordable and quality medicines; the core principle of which is protecting and promoting the right to life of patients. This is a fundamental principle which the PCP members should fully understand as health professionals who have made the solemn vow to protect the sanctity of an individual’s life.

While PCP remains preoccupied with its unfounded fears about generic and cheaper medicines, indigent patients are being deprived of their right to have access to safe and affordable medicines.

—NYMIA PIMENTEL-SIMBULAN, Ph.D.,
chair, EDELIZA P. HERNANDEZ,
executive director,
Medical Action Group Inc. (MAG),
45 St. Mary St., Cubao, Quezon City