Recto wants Senate probe on fake medicines

MANILA, Philippines – Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto has filed a resolution seeking a Senate inquiry into the presence of fake drugs, after a United Nations report found the Philippines has the highest incidence of counterfeit drugs amoung Southeast Asian countries.

In his filing the resolution, Recto said that "being depicted as a hotspot for knockoff drugs is a cause for alarm and action." He added that the government should unmask which of the fake drugs have entered the Philippine market.

"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," Recto said.

In July, the UN study on transnational crime found that the Philippines has the most cases of counterfeiting and illegal distribution of pharmaceutical products from 2013 to 2017 at 193 occurence. It is followed by Thailand at 110 cases, 93 in Indonesia, and 49 in Vietnam.

In the country, counterfeit drugs include over-the-counter drugs such as paracetamol, anti-tuberculosis medicines and anti-rabies vaccines.

"Hindi lahat ng drug dealers shabu ang ibinibenta. Ang iba, pekeng gamot sa infection, rabies, TB [tuberculosis], cancer, ubo at lagnat ang inilalako," Recto said.

(Not all drug dealers sells shabu (metamphetamine). Other sell fake drugs for infection, rabies, TB, cancer, cought, and fever.)

Recto said that the huge amount of money Filipinos spend for medicine should "prod the government to protect their health, safety, and money."

According to Recto, about half of the total P372.8 billion, or P187 billion, "out-of-pocket" health expenditures went to pharmaceutical products.

The unnumbered Senate resolution seeks to "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."

In March last year, President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the police to arrest producers and distributors of fake drugs after counterfeits of a popular paracetamol firm were found in the market.  

In June, the Food and Drug Administration stopped online shopping sites Lazada and Shoppee from selling medicines, until they secure proper licenses. – Rappler.com

Aika Rey

Aika Rey covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler. Before writing about politicians, she covered budget, labor, and transportation issues.

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