Senior citizens need not show prescription for OTC drugs

PHOTO: Two old women at the counter of a pharmacy STORY: Seniors need not showprescription for OTC drugs

FDA CLARIFICATION | Complaints about pharmacies requiring a doctor’s prescription for seniors buying over-the-counter medicines have prompted the Food and Drug Administration to issue a clarification. (File photo by GRIG C. MONTEGRANDE / Philippine Daily Inquirer)

MANILA, Philippines — Senior citizens do not need to present a prescription from their physicians to get the mandated 20-percent discount they are entitled to when buying over-the-counter (OTC) medicines, including vitamins and food supplements, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The clarification made under FDA Advisory No. 2024-0429 and signed by FDA Director General Dr. Samuel Zacate was issued on Wednesday. It was addressed to all drug outlets, hospital pharmacies and healthcare professionals to avoid confusion.

According to the FDA, Administrative Order No. 2012-0007-A of the Department of Health (DOH) states that those age 60 and above are not required to get a doctor’s prescription to avail themselves of a 20-percent discount in “the purchase of OTC medicines.”

Under the DOH administrative order, medicines are defined as “prescription and nonprescription/over-the-counter drugs, both generic and branded, including vitamins and mineral supplements medically prescribed by the attending physician and approved by the [DOH and FDA], which are intended for use in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment or prevention of human disease or sickness.”

The 20-percent discount privilege for seniors is provided under Republic Act No. 9994, or the Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010.Requirements

Citing the law, the FDA noted that to avail themselves of the discount, seniors or their representatives can present any form of identification (senior citizens ID card, passport or document) showing their birthday. They must also bring their purchase slip booklets for recording purposes (name of OTC medicine purchased, quantity, when and where it was purchased).

In an earlier radio interview, FDA spokesperson Pamela Angeline Sevilla said they had been receiving complaints from the elderly about pharmacies asking for doctors’ prescriptions when purchasing OTC drugs.

“This should not be the case because it is clear in the law that when buying OTC items, the only documentary requirement that senior citizens need to present is their senior citizen ID or any ID proving their senior status,” she added.

The FDA instead urged pharmacies and similar establishments to assist and educate the elderly in distinguishing between prescription and OTC drugs to avoid unnecessary inconvenience.

“Let’s help our seniors instead of asking them for a prescription even if we know that the medicine they are buying is OTC and does not need one in the first place,” Sevilla said.

To determine whether a medicine is a “prescription drug (RX)” or an OTC drug, the public can access which lists down all of the nearly 30,000 FDA-registered human medicines available.

Senior citizens can also file complaints before the Office of Senior Citizens Affairs in their respective local government units against pharmacies that do not comply with RA 9994.

The FDA warned that establishments that fail to honor the 20-percent discount on medicines for the elderly face imprisonment ranging from two to six years, plus a fine of P50,000 to P100,000 for the first offense.

Their business permit, permit to operate, franchise, and other similar privileges may also be revoked by authorities.

If the offender is a corporation, partnership or company with a similar structure, its officials, such as the president, general manager, managing partner or other officer charged with managing its business affairs, shall also be held liable.

If the violator is a foreigner, they shall be immediately deported after serving their prison sentence.