Explain expiring medicines, DOH told
MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Health (DOH) must explain why it failed to distribute P18.5 billion worth of medicine, some of them spoiled or nearly expired, to government hospitals and health centers, a party list lawmaker said on Sunday.
Anakalusugan Rep. Michael Defensor urged the House health panel to get to the bottom of a Commission on Audit (COA) report that flagged the DOH’s overstocking of medical supplies.
Bad inventory management
In a statement, the former environment secretary wondered if it was “simply a case of bad and wasteful inventory management.”
“Might the problem also be due to some officials becoming ‘excessively eager’ to authorize bloated purchase orders for medicine because of induced procurements?” Defensor said.
Defensor filed House Resolution No. 145, seeking a congressional investigation of the COA’s findings.
“We must stress that officials trusted with public resources are duty bound to see to it that these supplies are used efficiently for the public good and benefit, and not just left to spoil away,” Defensor said.
“In this case, we sure hope the problem has nothing to do with the overpurchasing of medicines owing to possible enticements from large pharmaceutical suppliers,” he added.
“Negligence in the management of perishable inventories, especially lifesaving drugs, is unacceptable, considering that many poor Filipinos desperately need these medicines,” Defensor said.
“In fact, we’ve come across many cases wherein patients in public hospitals are being told to buy their own medicine from private pharmacies because the [hospital’s] subsidized dispensary has run out of supplies,” he said.
In response to the COA audit, the DOH earlier admitted that it lacked the logistics—warehouses and transport facilities—to efficiently store and distribute the medicines.
“If that is the case, then Congress might as well give portions of the annual multibillion-peso Health Facilities Enhancement Fund directly to public hospitals, so that they can build their own warehouses in their compounds. This way, the medicine are always within the reach of consumers,” Defensor said.
As of Dec. 31, 2018, the DOH still had a stock of P18.449 billion worth of medicine purchased from 2015 to 2018 that have yet to be distributed to hospitals and health centers, the COA reported.
Of that amount, P294.767 million worth of medicine in the DOH warehouses were found to be nearing expiration as of Jan. 31, 2019, increasing the probability of losing their efficacy.
Another P19.165 million worth of medicine the DOH delivered to hospitals and health centers were also found to be nearing expiration because they were purportedly distributed late, or less than one year before expiry, the report said.
The report said another P30.353 million worth of medicine distributed to hospitals and health centers had already expired as of Dec. 31, 2018.
Health Undersecretary Eric Domingo had earlier said that the DOH learned of the undistributed medicine late in 2018 and the agency already put up an office to attend to the matter.
“When this was found out at the end of 2018, the department set up an office dedicated to making sure the supplies are moved and sent to the communities immediately,” he said in a television interview.
But the health official admitted that there was a problem with how the department planned, purchased and distributed medicine.
“It really has to be an overhaul of the system and you have to make sure it’s an integrated system from the start of the planning to the procurement, distribution and utilization,” he said.
“If you know you’re not moving them and you’re not using them, and you keep on buying them, personally I would be very, very suspicious,” he added.
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