Aquino warns drug firm for raising leptospirosis medicine price by 750%
President Benigno Aquino on Thursday warned a drug company that had raised its price of a medicine for leptospirosis by 750 percent in anticipation of an outbreak of the waterborne illness as a result of widespread flooding in Metro Manila and surrounding provinces.
Mincing no words, Mr. Aquino warned the drug company that it would get the full force of the law unless it recalled the seven-fold price increase.
“I feel bad when I got a report this morning that there’s this company that is taking advantage of the situation,” Mr. Aquino said.
“I’d like to take this opportunity since the media are here, ‘What you’re doing is antipeople, anti-Filipino,’” he said in a talk with evacuees huddled in a school in Bagong Silang, Caloocan City.
Officials said the size of the price increase riled the President.
“We’re reminding them that in a period of calamity, there is price control,” Mr. Aquino said, adding that if the company proceeded with the outrageous price hike the government would use all of its powers to stop it.
“You can’t take advantage of the Filipinos,” Mr. Aquino said. “If it’s necessary to import the drug to set the price right, and make [this company] lose its market, we’ll do that.”
Neither Mr. Aquino nor his health officials identified the company pending investigation.
“I’m appealing to you. We know who you are, and you’re being investigated,” Mr. Aquino said. “Before we start the process, set things right.”
Assistant Health Secretary Eric Tayag said the Department of Health (DOH) monitored the spike in the price of the leptospirosis drug made by the company from under P10 to P50 to P70 in the last few days.
“We’re investigating it,” Tayag told reporters. “We might impose price reduction. The law allows the DOH to reduce prices.”
Tayag declined to say whether the drug manufacturer was a local or a foreign company.
Outbreak of diseases
Leptospirosis is a disease transmitted through water contaminated with animal urine and is prevalent during the rainy season, especially in places prone to flooding.
Health Secretary Enrique Ona warned of a possible rise in the cases of leptospirosis in the aftermath of this week’s massive flooding in the capital and nearby provinces brought on by relentless monsoon rains.
The DOH director for the National Capital Region, Eduardo Janairo, warned residents of flooded areas to protect themselves against leptospirosis, dengue, diarrhea and pneumonia.
According to Janairo, humid and hot weather and still water help the growth and spread of the leptospira bacteria that cause leptospirosis and the virus that causes dengue.
Symptoms of leptospirosis include fever, muscle pain, headache and reddish eyes. Severely infected people turn yellow and have low output of urine, which is dark colored. They also suffer from severe headache, and the infection could result in kidney failure, liver and brain damage, and respiratory spasm.
The DOH said 2,003 people had been infected with leptospirosis during the first seven months of this year, higher than the 887 cases reported during the same period last year. This year, 97 people had died from leptospirosis, the department said.
Ona called on people in flooded areas in the metropolis and outlying provinces to take precautions and to make sure that their drinking water was safe from contamination.
“Our worry is that if the water is slow to subside, there will be more seepage to the water sources,” Janairo said.
He said bacteria-ridden floodwaters could contaminate drinking water, raising the specter of diarrhea or cholera. With a report from Kristine L. Alave
Originally posted at 07:40 pm | August 09, 2012
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