Senate sets to probe proliferation of fake medicine

Published August 12, 2019, 7:09 PM

by CJ Juntereal

By Vanne Terrazola

Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto is seeking a legislative inquiry on the spread of fake medicines and drugs in the Philippines.

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto (MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

Recto on Monday said he has filed a resolution on the presence and prevalence of counterfeit after a United Nations agency reported that the Philippines has the “highest incidence” of fake medicines in Southeast Asia.

The Senate leader said the country “being depicted as a hotspot for knockoff drugs” in the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) 2019 report on Transnational Organized Crime in Southeast Asia: Evolution, Growth and Impact should be a cause for “alarm and action.”

The UNDOC found that from 2014 to 2017, fake medicines, mostly from Pakistan, India and China reportedly entered the Philippines through illegal trade.

This is on top of the reported spread of counterfeit medicines manufactured locally and are sold for lower prices, Recto noted.

“In 2018, no less than President Duterte described the availability of counterfeited paracetamol brands in the country as a growing threat and ordered the arrest of their makers and sellers,” Recto said in his resolution.

He said the government should investigate “these misbranded, spurious, fake, and falsely-labeled drugs” that have entered the market.

“Not all drug dealers sell shabu. Others sell fake drugs for infection, rabies, TB (tuberculosis), cancer, cough and flu,” Recto said in Filipino.

“They are victimizing the poor who often have to borrow money to buy medicines or cost-cut by buying doses lower than what the doctor has prescribed,” he added.

Citing government data, Recto said Filipino families spent about P187 billion to purchase drugs in pharmacies in 2017.

“Households buy half a billion pesos worth of drugs a day. Hindi pa kasama ang binibili ng mga pribadong ospital, gobyerno at insurance companies na nasa bilyun-bilyong piso din ang halaga taun-taon (This does not include those procured by private hospitals, government, and insurance companies which also amounts to billions every year),” he said.

These amounts, Recto said, should prod the government to protect the public’s health, safety and money.

His proposed Senate investigation, Recto said, should “know the gravity of the problem and formulate remedial measures that will strengthen the capacity of the Food and Drug Administration and all law enforcement agencies to defeat this problem.”