As Chair of the Senate Committee on Health and Demography and an advocate of universal healthcare access for all Filipinos, I am urging DOH and other concerned agencies to ensure the availability, accessibility and affordability of medicines needed by Filipinos, especially during this ongoing health crisis caused by COVID-19.

I am urging DOH and DTI to review the list of drugs included in Executive Order 104 which imposes Maximum Drug Retail Prices on certain drugs and medicines in accordance with the Cheaper Medicines Act. EO 104 was issued prior to the declaration of a public health emergency, hence medicines relative to the treatment of COVID-19 and related conditions may not have been contemplated then, but should be considered now.

By expanding the list included in the MDRP with the possible inclusion of other drugs and medicines that may help in treating COVID-19 patients and other related or prevalent illnesses at this time, we can assure Filipinos that they will have access to available and affordable medicines and they will not be subjected to abusive business practices that take advantage of their vulnerabilities during this national health emergency.

Bilang halimbawa, may mga nababalitang ‘overcharging’ ng mga gamot sa mga ospital na isinasama nalang sa total bill ng mga pasyente. Walang choice ang pasyente kundi bayaran ito upang magamot at makauwi. Nakakalungkot ito dahil sa oras na dapat magdamayan at magmalasakit tayo sa isa’t isa, merong mga tao na pinipiling pagsamantalahan pa ang kapwa nilang Pilipino. Handa po tayong imbestigahan ang mga ito.

Nabalitaan ko rin na mayroong iilang mga gamot na mahirap hanapin at hindi nabebenta o napapamahagi sa mga nangangailangan nito. Hindi tayo dapat pumayag na pagsamantalahan ng iilan ang sitwasyon kung saan ang mga mahihirap ay namamatay nalang dahil hindi makabili ng gamot. Dapat pantay-pantay at hindi lang ang mga may kaya sa buhay ang makakabili ng mga gamot na kailangan upang gumaling.

Ngayon palang, siguraduhin na natin na may kapasidad ang gobyerno na gawing available, accessible at affordable ang iba’t ibang mga medisina na kailangan ng mga may sakit. Kapag dumating ang panahon na mayroon nang vaccine at gamot laban sa COVID-19, dapat handa tayo na mabigyan ang lahat ng Pilipinong nangangailangan nito, mahirap man o mayaman.

As I have said many times before, healthcare is a right, not a commodity. We must prioritize the general welfare of our people over the business profits of a few. Unahin natin palagi ang interes, kapakanan at buhay ng ordinaryong mga Pilipino.”

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