Jinggoy Estrada fleshes out multi-million doctors-pharma collusion

Jinggoy Estrada fleshes out multi-million doctors-pharma collusion

/ 06:06 PM April 29, 2024

Medical practitioners “conniving” with pharmaceutical companies to prescribe medicines allegedly receive at least eight percent of rebates, amounting to around P2 million, based on their monthly productivity.


MANILA, Philippines — Medical practitioners “conniving” with pharmaceutical companies to prescribe medicines allegedly receive at least eight percent of rebates, amounting to around P2 million, based on their monthly productivity.

In a privilege speech delivered during the Senate’s Monday plenary session, Senator Jinggoy Estrada detailed the controversial “multi-level marketing scheme” between some physicians and Bell-Kenz Pharma Inc.


READ: Senate reso on probe into alleged doctor – pharma collusion filed


Jedis and Padawans

According to Estrada, the doctors behind Bell-Kenz’s core group are called Jedis because the firm’s owners are Star Wars fans.

“Not everybody can be part of this group. Only doctors who are recommended by a Jedi and all other Jedis will be accepted. If there’s one Jedi who disapproves of a particular doctor for whatever reason, that doctor cannot be a Jedi,” said Estrada.

“They do this approval process via the Jedi Viber group. The reason why a Jedi recommends a doctor is mostly based on friendship, practice, and influence,” he added.

But the road to becoming a Jedi is not easy.

Estrada said individuals interested in becoming Jedi undergo a “nurturing lecture” conducted by Bell-Kenz’s president himself.

“The objective of this lecture is to teach doctors financial freedom and that Bell-Kenz is the only pharmaceutical company that can make it possible,” said Estrada, adding that the “productivity” of these doctors is regularly monitored.


In addition, the senator said interested physicians need to prescribe Bell-Kenz’s medicines and supplements to become Jedi. The entry-level investment allegedly costs around P250,000 to P500,000.

Once they become Jedis, they can supposedly benefit from the following:

  • Eight percent rebates based on monthly productivity (usually around P2 million). These are convertible to cash, luxury cars, and other expensive items.
  • Milestone points where one point is earned from the minimum P2,700 worth of prescribed brand sales. Earned points, on the other hand, can be used for redemption of items such as gadgets, household items, or foreign travel. One point is equivalent to one hundred pesos (P100).
  • Yearly performance bonus based on the percentage of the total contributions of the sales of Jedis against all of the Jedis
  • Dividends and growth of sales, which is based on the total number of shares the doctor holds
  • Annual “Jedi star tour,” depending if a certain doctor hits the goal of 3.5 percent productivity target

But how about the Padawans? Estrada said these are “second investors.”

“In the fictional universe of the Star Wars films, a Padawan is a Jedi apprentice. They do not have downline doctors. Padawans are entitled to receive dividends, rebates and earn milestone points,” he explained.

Estrada said Bell-Kenz’s popularity led the firm’s earnings to skyrocket.

“From a P1 billion profit in 2016, it increased to P3.2 billion in 2018, and it even climbed to P5 billion in 2019,” he added.

Unethical, unacceptable

Estrada expressed alarm over the alleged scheme, noting that it not only “hurts the credibility and integrity of the medical profession” but it also “undermines public trust in healthcare.”

“We cannot allow this unethical conduct to continue. It is our responsibility to denounce and eradicate such practices. It is saddening that while we are pushing for affordable medicines for our poor countrymen through the Senior Citizens Act, RA 10754 or the law expanding the benefits of PWDs, and others — there are doctors that are adding to the burden of our people,” said Estrada.

READ: Drug firm in Senate probe denies ‘pyramiding’ accusations

For Estrada, it may already be time for the Philippines to come up with a “legislation similar to the United States” called the Anti-Kickback Statute.

“[It is a] criminal law that prohibits the knowing and willful payment of remuneration to induce or reward patient referrals or the generation of business involving any item or service payable by the Federal healthcare programs,” he said.

Prior to Estrada’s exposé, Sen. Raffy Tulfo already disclosed that some physicians are enjoying pharmaceutical-sponsored junkets. He said these illegal and controversial schemes are the reason why branded medicines are mostly being prescribed by physicians.

READ: Tulfo wants ban, recall of ‘ineffective’ generic medicines

Meanwhile, Sen. JV Ejercito has filed a resolution seeking an investigation on the potential “violation of ethical standards of medical practices” amid the alleged conniving between some doctors and pharmaceutical companies.

“We need to probe this issue, so that the people’s trust in our doctors will remain solid,” said Ejercito during Monday’s plenary session.

Ejercito pointed out that the controversy raises several “ethical, legal, and policy questions.”

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“First, it contravenes many regulations and protocols meant to insulate doctors from undue influence. Second, what are its effects on the cost of our healthcare?” Ejercito wondered.

TAGS: Doctors, Jinggoy Estrada, pharmaceutical, Senate

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