A multisectoral consumers’ group was recently formed to assert the people’s access to safe, affordable, quality, and effective medicines. Its first move was to criticize the loopholes in the Universally Accessible Cheaper and Quality Medicines Act of 2008 or RA 9502.
BY RONALYN V. OLEA
John Montejo, a kidney patient, has been undergoing dialysis for seven years.
Every month, he spends P60,000 ($1,242 at the current exchange rate of $1=P48.28) for dialysis, P1,950 ($40.389) for hypertension medicines and P14,000 ($289.97) for the medicines prescribed specifically for his low red blood cells (RBC) count.
Montejo lamented,“Halos ‘di na ako kumain, makabili lang ng gamot…Ang hirap magkasakit dito sa Pilipinas.” (I skip meals just to be able to buy medicines…It’s difficult to get sick here in the Philippines.)
Montejo said that many of his ‘batch mates’ at the dialysis center died because they could no longer afford the treatment and medicines. “Sa 100 pasyente, lima na lang kaming naiwan.” (Out of 100 patients, only five of us have remained alive.)
A member of the Kidney Patients and Health Workers Association of the Philippines, Montejo told the gathering of consumers,“Tayong lahat, dapat nating labanan ang mga pharmaceutical companies para mapababa ang presyo ng gamot.” (All of us should fight the pharmaceutical companies to lower the prices of medicines.)
Montejo is just one of the patients who joined the formation of a multisectoral consumers’ group intending to assert the people’s access to safe, affordable, quality, and effective medicines.
Various health non-government organizations, sectoral organizations and community-based groups formally launched the Consumers’ Action for Empowerment (Consumers’ Action), February 20 in Quezon City.
Representatives of different groups listen to the speaker during the launching of Consumers’ Action for Empowerment (Consumers’ Action). (Photo by Ronalyn Olea)
Members of the Consumers’ Action include the CHD, Health Action for Information Network (HAIN), Health Students Action (HSA), Community Medicine for Development (COMMED), Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD) and Med-Herbal Pharmacy.
Representatives from Samahan ng Maralitang Kababaihang Nagkakaisa (Samakana or Association of United Poor Women), Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU or May 1st Movement) and community-based organizations from Marikina, Parañaque, Bicutan, Manila and Quezon City were also present.
Teachers, nuns from different congregations and foundations doing charity work also joined the new consumers’ group.
Doctor Eleanor Jara, executive director of the Council for Health and Development (CHD) and a member of the Consumers’ Action secretariat said that eight or nine out of ten Filipino patients could not afford to buy medicines. She added that the World Health Organization classified the Philippines as among countries where less than 30 percent of the population has regular access to essential drugs.