Observations on generic medicines, salt reduction, livestock industry

Several Trustees of Laban Konsyumer Inc., former Agriculture Usec Jose Reano, businessman/entrepreneur Chito Chavez and former Health Usec Dr. Kenneth Hartigan Go shared their observations on various consumer issues, which I wish to share with you my readers.

On the livestock industry 

Usec Reano represented Laban Konsyumer Inc. in the Senate hearing of the Agriculture Committee.  Senate Bill 139 filed by Senators Villar and Binay seeks to separate the Bureau of Animal Industry regulatory function from its swine, poultry and livestock research and development function. As proposed, the separation of the regulatory function from the research and development function of the BAI will help eliminate one of the causes of high meat prices and corruption. On one hand, the development of the livestock will trigger productivity in the livestock and poultry industry while the regulatory function can concentrate on the protection of the consumers through strict implementation of the food safety law, unlawful entry of expired meat and smuggling.

On salt reduction 

Mr. Lucito Chavez, a leader in the bread business, who represented LKI in the TWG of the DOH on how to reduce salt consumption made the following observations:  our country hardly has a salt industry considering that eighty (80) percent of salt are imported. Thus, lessening salt consumption in the households also results in lessening salt importation,   savings in foreign exchange, revive the local salt industry and a healthier nutrition program for the people. 

On generic medicines 

Dr. Kenneth Hartigan Go shared with me his recent experience on the industry’s attitude towards generic medicine. He noted that the attitude of frontliners towards generic medicines should be improved to maximize acceptance of generic medicines fully by the consumers.

 `    “I was recently at a drugstore to buy medicines. When the pharmacist assistant behind the counter asked me, “Branded ba o generics lang?”  That one innocent-sounding question contains a world of assumptions.  

First, branded is the first on offer.  In a country where too many have limited resources to buy expensive medicines, why are cheaper generics not the assumed first choice?  People can still have branded medicines upon request.  

Second, generics are accompanied by the word “lang”.  Coming from a professional who is selling medicines, this may be misconstrued as being inferior in quality and less desirable, and perhaps reflect badly on those who choose it.  

The addition of the word “lang” debases just about anything to which it is attached.  Driver lang ako. Grade school lang ang natapos ko.  Ako lang naman ang maaapektuhan.

Language has a way of reflecting our paradigms, whether or not we are aware of them.  Or if we are not careful, we may end up believing just what we say.  We are likely victims of pharma industry successful marketing at play.

       We saw the surge in cases of COVID 19.  It was worrisome because we know very little about this new variant of a virus.  As it turned out, many of those affected self-medicated during self-isolation at home.  There was a paracetamol (and flu and cough medicines) shortages in drugstores as people queue up in long lines to get these.  Pharmaceutical companies acknowledge the temporary shortages because of increase demand.  And as it turned out, a number of selected branded paracetamol were out of stock.  DOH and the government had to step in to assure society that there was no shortages and that one can use generic paracetamol instead.    

I had teleconsultation with COVID affected friends who adamantly refused to take some brands of paracetamol saying that their whole family has experienced lack of efficacy of some of these brands.  They go to the extent of buying from unknown suppliers directly for these home remedies and over the counter medicines.

There is still a long way to go to provide patients this important health literacy about the value of choosing generic medicines.   But I acknowledge that this is in fact an issue of trust with government agencies and with the pharma companies on the quality of their medicines.  Generics medicines have come a long way and have real value and quality in Philippine health care, they are not inferior.  But there is still hesitancy in using these and yet people complain about high drug prices.

Mid-January 2022, the Bureau of Customs seized P30M worth of fake and counterfeit medicines, medicines that are used for the treatment of COVID 19, including paracetamol and flu medicines.  In health crises, patients and consumers in dire need, faced with the shortages in drugstores, will create a demand market for medicines.  Criminal elements will exploit this opportunity to peddle these fake medicines.  We salute the BOC for their quick response, their actions protect sick patients.  We hope for more DOH and FDA led health literacy programs for society to learn from and not be scammed”.

I wish to commend our Trustees for their continuing support to consumer welfare.

Atty. Vic Dimagiba, AB, LLB, LLM

President, Laban Konsyumer Inc.

Email at labankonsyumer@gmail.com