‘Leptospirosis’ drug prices stable, says DoH
The prices of essential medicines, including that of doxycycline, the antibiotic drug used to treat leptospirosis, remain stable, the Department of Health (DoH) said Friday.
In a statement, the DOH said “the supply and prices of essential medicines, including antibiotics such as amoxicillin and doxycycline remain stable as of now. The public is assured that the DOH has set the prices of paracetamol, salbutamol, amoxicillin and clarithromycin.”
According to Dr. Irene Farinas, a medical officer of the DOH-National Center for Pharmaceutical Access and Management, which monitors drug prices, the price of doxycycline remains in the recommended range of P2 to P168.75.
On Thursday, President Aquino said a drug company had increased the price of doxycycline, by 750 percent in anticipation of the increased demand for it. The drug is used to treat leptospirosis, a bacterial ailment that afflicts people with open sores who come in contact with the urine and feces of rats in floodwaters.
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The DoH said 2,003 people had been infected with leptospirosis during the first seven months of the year, higher than the 887 cases reported during the same period last year. It added that 97 people had died from the ailment this year.
Farinas said the DOH had not monitored any pharmaceutical firm that charged more for the antibiotic drug.
“Based on our monitoring, (the cost of doxycycline) is within our price range,” she said, adding that the price covers both generic antibiotics and “innovator” or branded drugs.
“It’s a bit unfair,” Farinas said of the information that President Aquino got about the spike in the price of doxycycline. But the DOH official acknowledged it was possible that rogue retailers pushed the prices upward to take advantage of the demand.
But Malacañang on Friday said it was standing by President Aquino’s statement on the jacking up of the price of the drug for leptospirosis.
There is ample supply of the drug, Farinas said of the drug that is manufactured by both local and multinational companies based in the Philippines.
Farinas also urged the public to report to the DoH drug stores that sell the drug beyond the recommended price. “They have to document it, record where they bought it, when and how much they paid for it,” she said.
The Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines (PHAP), meanwhile, assured the government and the public that prices of medicines, especially those needed during calamities, remain stable.
PHAP Executive Director Reiner W. Gloor said that based on information from their members, the prices of essential drugs have remained the same as those at the manufacturer level, and that the distribution channels of the medicines have remained steady.
“We have confirmed with members that prices of medicines, specifically those needed in times of disasters, have been the same. Our members practice responsible pricing especially during calamities in support of the government and in showing solidarity with those affected by natural disasters,” said PHAP President Carlito Realuyo.
Communication Secretary Ricky Carandang said the initial information from the health department “suggested” that it was the drug company that set the high price. He added, however, that the DoH was now investigating if the retailers had something to do with the increase in the price.
In a text message, Carandang refused to identify the drug company, saying that “leptospirosis drugs are made by more than one company and that the DoH is still looking into it.”
Health Assistant Secretary Eric Tayag, who had joined the President in his visits to evacuees in the capital on Thursday, confirmed that the department has monitored a company that spiked the drug’s price from under P10 to P50 to P70.
“We’re investigating it. We might impose price reduction. The law allows the DoH to reduce prices,” he said on Thursday. “We’re verifying from the field if this indeed is true. If it’s confirmed, what it’s doing is wrong.”
Health Secretary Enrique Ona, meanwhile, said the DoH has fielded medical teams to evacuation centers in Metro Manila and Central and Southern Luzon after the floods have subsided.
“Our health teams are assisting our local governments in delivering health services to their constituents, thus providing a small window of opportunity for them to completely recover,” Ona explained.
So far, more than 2,000 were found ill in evacuation centers and health centers in the NCR, Central Luzon and the Southern Tagalog region, the DoH said.
Ona said the DoH will provide free doxycycline to individuals involved in rescue and relief efforts and residents staying in evacuation centers.
As of Aug. 9, 2012, patients in evacuation centers have complained of acute respiratory infections, febrile illness, skin diseases, minor injuries and diarrhea. Acute respiratory infections comprise 60 percent of medical consultations though no outbreaks were detected, the health department said.
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