SWS: Nearly all Filipinos say gov’t must provide free medicines to the people  

SWS: Nearly all Filipinos say govât must provide free medicines to the people  
A health worker prepares a dose of the BioNtech Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine during a vaccination for seafarers at a stadium in Manila on July 15, 2021.
AFP / Ted Aljibe

MANILA, Philippines — Ahead of the May 9 elections, nearly all Filipinos believe that it is the government’s responsibility to provide free medicines to patients who need them, new survey results by the Social Weather Stations suggest.

In a press release sent to the   media,  the SWS survey found that 78% of adult respondents said that the government “should definitely” provide medicines to those who need them, while 17% said the government “should probably” do so. 

The survey reported the " high preference of Filipinos" for free and subsidized medicines as the most helpful ways of obtaining medicines for a grave illness. It also noted "very strong agreement"  across demographics, ranging from net +89 to +98. 

The SWS survey also found that among Filipino consumers, the efficacy of the medicine — or the ability of the medicine to achieve the desired beneficial effect on a patient — is the most important attribute of a COVID-19 drug, followed by affordability, safety, accessibility, and availability of supply.    

Healthcare priorities of Filipinos

Respondents were also asked about issues that should be addressed to lower or remove the high out-of-pocket spending of Filipinos that families pay directly from their own savings when it comes to healthcare.

As it currently stands, P85 is paid out-of-pocket by Filipino families or shared by voluntary private insurance for every P100 spent on medicines.

"The country’s private share in medicine expense is among the highest in the world along with Malaysia (45%), South Korea (42%), New Zealand (32%), and Thailand (9% )," the statement reads. 

Medicines ranked first as the most burdensome healthcare expense, followed by payment for doctor’s fees, laboratory fees and hospital room.

The top choices of "most helpful ways to obtain medicines" were: 

  • “Guaranteed PhilHealth financial subsidy to cover full or a portion of medication expenses” (average rank score of 1.92, with 1 as the highest) 
  • “Acquire free medications procured by the government from public hospitals, health centers and government pharmacies” (1.97).  
  • “Fully pay for the total cost of the prescribed medicines at a discounted price” (2.91)
  • “Fully pay for the total cost of the prescribed medicines first, and ask government to reimburse the full amount after” (3.19).  

The survey also named the most important areas where government should collaborate with pharmaceutical companies, which included:

  • “Spreading knowledge and understanding of healthcare” (2.79)
  • “Solving the problems brought about by the pandemic” (2.81) 
  • “Ensuring the availability of medicines” (2.83)
  • “Helping to make medicines free, or at least affordable and accessible” (3.14)
  • “Undertaking research on and promoting the development of new medicines in the country” (3.42)

Groups like the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines,  Medicines Transparency Alliance Philippines, Stratbase ADR Institute, UHC Watch, and the Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines agreed that  increased government investment in medicines is necessary to improve its medicine expense share of just 15%. 


The survey which was commissioned by the PHAP and entitled Filipino’s Preference on Access to Medicines and Partnerships with the Pharmaceutical Sector was conducted on the week of December 12 to 16 last year with 1, 440 adult respondents nationwide, with 360 each in Balance Luzon, Metro Manila, the Visayas and Mindanao.

The sampling error margins are ±2.6% for national percentages and ±5.2% for Balance Luzon, Metro Manila, the Visayas and Mindanao.


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