Saturday, August 15, 2009

Thinking Out of the Box 3

The Philippines Cheaper Medicines Act

There is much discussion about this issue recently. Physicians may have no choice but to follow.

The reality is, quality has its price. When I was in the Philippines, during my younger days and not yet a physician, I once consumed Amoxicillin for 10 days because of upper respiratory tract infection. The cheap generic antibiotic was obtained from the health department and even had the DOH mark in each capsule.

Fine it was cheap. But for the ten days I was taking the drug, I was constipated too. My cough and colds resolved slowly, which I suspected to be due to its natural course.

When I became a doctor, I tried to shy away from prescribing cheap drugs to my patients. Why? Because I want my patients to get well. I am doubtful of the quality of cheap generic drugs in my country. If my patients do not get well, they will not be happy about it. And I'll be dead.

Sadly, if people want to get well, they have to pay for it. In the end, if people pay for cheap drugs and do not get well, they end up paying more.

The Act should be re-evaluated and implemented well. As it is, although the intentions are good, the availability is questioneable. Drug price should be strictly regulated. I was surprised to see that quality medicines are widely available in Sri Lanka at very, very cheap prices compared to the Philippines.

In the hospitals of remote areas where I once practiced my craft, seldom were days that the line up of medicines complete. Most of the time, even in emergency situation, the patients have to buy from a nearby botika.

The State can only recommend to physicians to patronize the use of cheap drugs but they cannot enforce it. In the end, it is the physicians' credibility at stake if and when their clients do not get well, or worse become constipated.

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