Wake Up, Philippines!

Cheaper drugs law not working

Posted in Health, Legislation, Medicine by Erineus on February 25, 2009

THE cheaper medicines law will not benefit the poor because the reduced prices for drugs will not make lower income groups prioritize spending for medicine over cell cards.

Asian Institute of Management professor Emmanuel Leyco, executive director of the Center for Legislative Development International, said the government’s pricing response as a “policy response” to the high cost of medicine will not work.

He said studies they conducted showed that medical care ranks eighth in the list of top 10 expenditures of Filipinos. Food, housing and transportation and communications ranked first, second and third, respectively.

“The poor spend more for transportation and communication compared to health care. They would prefer to buy cell phone cards than medicines. They will purchase the same things they consider essential,” Leyco told Standard Today in an interview after yesterday’s “Kapihan Para sa Kalusugan” at the AIM building in Makati City. Even as he acknowledged the efforts of lawmakers to lower the cost of medicine, Leyco said they should have considered the people’s income profile and spending pattern.

For those who are in the marginalized or poor sector, reduced prices mean very little because of the lack of savings.

“Close to 50 percent of our people do not have income and those who have less income than they spend will not consider buying medicines even with lower costs,” Leyco said.

“So the bottom 50 percent or the poor Filipinos will not benefit from the cheaper medicine law,” he said.

Data available show that 61 percent of all the healthcare facilities are located in Luzon with almost half of them clustered in Metro Manila. Filipino medical professionals also prefer to practice in the more advanced urban centers.

At present, only 10 percent of the country’s doctors, dentists, pharmacists; 20 percent of medical technicians; and 35 percent of nurses can be found practicing in rural areas. In 1999, there were only 3,941 of them who went abroad to work. A few years later, more than 22,000 left for overseas assignments.

By Macon Ramos Araneta

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