Cheaper medicines my foot
CTALK - Cito Beltran (The Philippine Star) - August 16, 2019 - 12:00am

In spite of the claims and seeming truth that the “Cheaper Medicines Law” has made most medicines affordable, it seems that there are still many instances where medicines in the Philippines can be prohibitive as well as dangerous. While comparing medical conditions and horror stories, I learned from one of our close friends how she had ended up with a neurological disorder that required her to buy certain medicines to avoid further strokes and brain damage. In the course of buying said medicines our friend discovered the ugly truth that “specialized medicines” require a ton of money and are exorbitantly priced in the Philippines in comparison to the US and other countries.

Our friend shared how she was prescribed “Anagrelite” which costs P350 in the Philippines but only costs P60 at COSCO in the US. One doctor even prescribed a medicine called Jakafi and was charging her P14,000 per tablet or somewhere in the region of P1.6 million for the whole treatment package to treat a blood disorder. Lo and behold when she went for a second opinion, she was prescribed aspirin and Hydroxeria that cost under P100 for the two. My experience has to do with my blood pressure maintenance medicine that costs P180 per tablet. When I asked, the pharmacists told me that there was no alternative equivalent. I am certain that there are many other similar stories out there where “specialized medications” are excessively priced especially for cancer treatments. The question is, what is Congress and the Department of Health doing about it? 

We should also look into the fact that some medicines were being prescribed by certain physicians even if these had not passed the standards for clinical testing or granted FDA approval both here and in the United States. From what I saw on the internet Jakafi only got their US FDA approval early this year, but the physician who prescribed it to my friend did so 3 or 4 years ago. I myself was prescribed Arcoxia and after having a bad reaction, I later found out that there are known adverse reactions to the medication and yet it is actively prescribed for gout and arthritis or joint aches in the Philippines and many people use it casually. At the very least the DOH and FDA should exert more effort toward public awareness and determining what the real or correct prices of medicines should be.

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During our recent visit to Camp John Hay in Baguio I was once again reminded by the locals that many facilities such as cottages and commercial buildings are rotting or dilapidated because of the long standing court battles initiated by the former BCDA administration versus the Camp John Hay developers. From what I know, the current BCDA leadership has opted to let the court decide on whatever issues or legalities have to be settled but they won’t rock the boat or rattle sabers with the Sobrepeña group. The developers on the other hand apparently chose to maintain the status quo meaning operate what’s ok on the ground but they too seem to prefer to keep things “frozen”. The problem is a number of people who have inquired, expressed interest or intent to put up business in John Hay or take over abandoned facilities can’t get anywhere because representatives from both sides are vague or non-committal.

During our stay, I learned of at least 6 buildings or large cottages that have fallen into disrepair instead of housing business or providing service for tourists and visitors to Camp John Hay. Perhaps it would be good for Executive Secretary Medialdea to look into the matter if only to get both sides talking about solutions until the courts make their final decisions. At the end of the day, those structures are government property paid for and owned by taxpayers. Not only are they “property” they are also part of the John Hay history that needs to be preserved and protected.

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After several years of complaints from the public and members of media, the Quezon City government led by its traffic czar Ariel Inton finally decided to take matters into their own hands and towed all the impounded vehicles that the LTFRB had so recklessly and irresponsibly parked on the city streets of Quezon City. Malacañang should castigate the officials of the LTFRB for being the worst example in terms of obstructing public roads and being unresponsive to the numerous complaints that were aired against them in the past. I personally believe that if a government agency such as the LTFRB does not have the dedicated space to store impounded vehicles, then they should not be towing or impounding vehicles. Simply issue tickets and confiscate the plates and documents. In the Netherlands I have learned of a practice where the government will not detain or confine a criminal or fugitive if the government cannot provide the required accommodation and space considered to be humane. No room – No jail.

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Call it crazy but I recently heard a radio news anchor comment that when the Tandang Sora flyover was shut down, traffic allegedly improved. I don’t know how true that might be but I for one have suggested that some engineering solutions such as the elevated U-Turn platforms on C5 and Kalayaan road should be trimmed down to one lane or totally knocked down and replaced with ground level U-turn slots because the elevated platform ate up too much space from C5 resulting in the choke points and congestions especially during rush hour. The platforms may have worked back in the days they were conceptualized but nowadays the structures’ inherent flaws are greater than the benefits.

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