Tolentino files bill regulating contact tracing apps

Published November 4, 2020, 3:19 PM

by Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Sen. Francis Tolentino has filed Senate Bill No. 1888 seeking the regulation of contact tracing apps and other health-related mobile applications.

(Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN)

SB 1888 also seeks to amend existing laws to include health applications and digital platforms in the jurisdiction of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The senator said mobile applications and software have been useful in boosting health and well-being and providing valuable health-related information, especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

He mentioned the contact-tracing apps which have been a “key public health intervention” against the coronavirus outbreak in various countries.

In the Philippines, the application was launched as the official contact tracing program of the government.

“These applications or ‘apps,’ which are easily downloadable and readily available in app stores, address a wide variety of health-related aspects, such as nutrition, sleep, physical exercise, stress management, and medication reminders,” Tolentino said in the bill.

“They are convenient, affordable, and easily accessible to consumers,” he added.

Tolentino said that as these mobile apps have become an integral part of the medical sector, there is an “urgent need” to ensure that these also comply with standards as provided by existing laws and regulations.

Under SB No. 1888, health applications and softwares shall be covered under the medical devices to be regulated by the FDA under the Republic Act No. 3720, as amended by RA No. 9711.

These include apps that calculate medicine doses, diagnose a medical condition or disease, prescribe cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of diseases, as well as those that determine contact with an infected person.

“If software and mobile medical applications remain unregulated, the diagnosis, treatment, or prescription of medicines through these applications could potentially result in life-threatening consequences,” Tolentino warned.

“Moreover, without proper licensing and registration, claims against medical malpractice and civil liabilities could be painstaking and difficult,” he added.

The bill has been referred to the Senate Committee on Health for deliberation.