MANILA, November 15, 2013 – DOH chief ordered Drug Price Freeze to enforce order.
With demand for medicines, health, and hygiene products getting hot in Tacloban – “ground zero” of Super-typhoon Yolanda’s landfall — Health authorities scrambled to freeze prices of such life-saving commodities.
Health Sec. Enrique Ona announced over the weekend the implementation of price freeze on about 200 essential medicines to ensure their availability for victims of Yolanda (Haiyan), who are vulnerable to many diseases due to a lack of clean water, food, and poor sanitation in affected areas.
“Securing the health and safety of the typhoon victims is an immediate priority of the DoH (Department of Health). We have to make sure that they have access to the medicines that they need, and that public hospitals and government agencies are able to source affordable drugs to reach as many of our countrymen severely affected by this crisis,” Ona was quoted as saying in online reports.
Aside from food and water supplies, medicines are the first to run out in emergency situations, especially in the wake of Yolanda’s unprecedented force and extent of devastation.
Thus, the price freeze is immediately effective, Ona said, adding that it covers all public and private drug retail outlets nationwide. Consumers are encouraged to lodge complaints against any violations of the order.
A price freeze would mean that suppliers, pharmacies and hospitals should not unduly hike the prices of essential drugs from their prevailing prices before the occurrence of the calamity, he explained.
He said the essential drugs covered by the price freeze include those for physical and mental trauma and injury, diarrhea, pneumonia skin diseases, infections such as leptospirosis and other endemic diseases in affected areas.
Also included are medicines for diabetes, hypertension and asthma that can be aggravated by anxiety and stress being experienced by the victims.
Ona directed all DoH regional directors to monitor the prices of essential drugs and ensure that there is no overpricing especially in calamity-stricken areas.
He ordered the price freeze to be effective immediately in all public and private drug retail outlets nationwide, including hospital pharmacies.
The price freeze on essential drugs should cover likely prevalent conditions among typhoon victims, including physical and mental trauma and injury, diarrhea, pneumonia, skin diseases and other infections such as leptospirosis and other endemic diseases in affected areas.
Other essential drugs covered by the price freeze include those that address common chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and asthma likely to be aggravated by the anxiety and stress as well as the difficult conditions faced on a daily basis by the victims.[pq]Ona encouraged the public to report any violation, as he warned drug manufacturers, traders and retailers to strictly implement the order.[/pq]
The DoH, through the order, has published both the Drug Price Reference Index to impose a price ceiling in government bidding and procurement of medicines as well as suggested retail prices to guide consumers on the lowest cost quality generic drugs in private pharmacies.
The Price Act (Republic Act 7581) mandates the DoH to automatically freeze the prices of essential drugs classified as basic commodities or impose maximum price ceilings particularly in times of calamities to protect consumers from profiteering, hoarding, cartels and other such violations by traders who may take advantage of the calamity situation.
All DoH regional directors have been tasked to monitor the prices of essential drugs and make sure there is no overpricing especially in calamity-stricken areas, Ona said.
Meanwhile, the Health department also said it remains on alert against possible outbreaks of communicable diseases as even primary health facilities were badly hit by the typhoon, rendering them non-functional in delivering medical aid for the victims.
The DoH is monitoring potential occurrence of outbreaks of communicable diseases because of the harsh conditions in the typhoon-stricken areas, including the lack of clean water and food and the breakdown in sanitation facilities.
Primary health facilities in the affected areas were also rendered non-functional in delivering medical aid for victims.