Study finds new medicines policy not reaching the poor
A study conducted by the Center for Legislative Development (CLD), an independent policy research center, finds the latest government drug policy that sets price ceilings to some essential medicines ineffective in reaching the poor.
The study involved surveys in known poor barangays in Manila, Caloocan and Quezon City and found that even with the substantial reduction in prices of medicines, the poor still find it difficult to buy the number and quality of drugs they need to cure or control their illnesses.
Most respondents in the surveys, done a month after the initial implementation of the Access to Cheaper and Quality Medicines Law, reported that they only sporadically or even rarely purchased maintenance drugs prescribed by their physicians. A key finding in the study confirmed that access to medical care, i.e., the availability of a doctor, is a key factor in determining access to medicine.
Without regular consultations, respondents resorted to relying on other sources for information such as drugstore clerks, neighbors or relatives, to determine their medicine purchases. Physicians warn that consumption of prescription medicines should come under supervision by a qualified medical practitioner, else irregular consumption or consumption of the wrong medicines could put patients at greater risk.
The study concludes that the Filipino poor are so poor that price cuts would not result in their greater access to medicines and that the policy to mediate access to medicines through pricing intervention would benefit mainly the middle-class who already have access to medicines.
CLD Executive Director Emmanuel Leyco, who did prior studies on health care financing, reiterated a conclusion found in many earlier studies that "If the government wishes to reach the poorest sector, it may have to explore other means, like adopting a drug subsidy program for the poor, financed and administered by the national health insurance program. "
Leyco stated that the current price reduction policy could only result in broader access by the poor if it is combined with a drug procurement program by government that targets priority diseases and population segments in known poor geographical areas.
For copy of the study, please visit CLD website: http://cld.org
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