11th Policy Dialogue on Universal Healthcare and Access to Medicines

The Social Media Card that was used in the 11th Policy Dialogue on Universal Healthcare and Access to Medicines

The DOH – Pharmaceutical Division (PD), in coordination with the Medicines Transparency Alliance (MeTA) Philippines, has recently conducted the 11th Policy Dialogue on Universal Healthcare and Access to Medicines on September 30, 2020. Various patient support groups and civil society organizations (CSOs) joined the dialogue which was hosted by the PD Chief, Dr. Anna Melissa Guerrero. Also known as the Patient Forum, this was held virtually via a webinar in the event of the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr Irene Florentino-Fariñas, head of the PD policy unit, opened the program with her welcome remarks followed by an inspirational message coming from Gov. Roberto Pagdanganan, Chair of MeTA Philippines. Ms. Cecilia C. Sison, country representative of MeTA Philippines, provided a brief overview of the Patient Forum, how it started and evolved into its current interactive platform.

The topics discussed revolved on how the government, non-government and patient organizations have been addressing the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the onset of which started in January 2020. Dr. Guerrero shared the efforts of the Department in combating this public health threat.

On other important matters, the implementation of the 20% discount of health-related goods to Senior Citizens was presented by Atty. Langley P. Gratuito from the Food and Drug Administration – Office of the Director General. Updates on the national drug pricing strategies that include the Maximum Retail Price (MRP) of medicines in relation to Executive Order (EO) No. 104 of the Office of the President was imparted by Ms. Vanessa Saulog-Obera. Mr. Juan Paolo Tonolete of the World Health Organization (WHO) Philippines was also invited to share the WHO’s initiatives in combating COVID-19 such as the Solidarity Trial on investigational drugs and vaccines. The latest information on Antimicrobial Stewardship in this time of the pandemic was reported by Ms. Carmela Barcelona, a consultant from WHO. Dr. Annabelle Borromeo, the Citizen representative of the Health Technology Assessment Committee (HTAC) gave a comprehensive presentation on how HTA can help address the COVID-19 dilemma.

The Secretary’s Hour with Undersecretary Maria Rosario S. Vergeire

The Secretary’s Hour, considered as the highlight of the forum, was graced by the DOH spokesperson, Undersecretary Maria Rosario S. Vergeire. She directly answered the patients’ various questions on the regulation and discounts of food supplements, PWD discounts, violations committed by retail outlets, access to cancer/HIV/AIDs medicines and services, COVID-19 treatments and vaccines, PhilHealth concerns, and more. Likewise, she requested the patient groups to submit in writing their concerns and complaints to the DOH to properly address the issues. 

In response, Mr. Chris Muñoz of the Philippine Alliance of Patient Organizations (PAPO) shared the efforts of the patient groups in facing COVID-19 and also expressed their needs which hopefully can be fulfilled by the government. Lastly, Ms. Karen Villanueva of PAPO thanked the DOH and all the patient groups for this interesting and timely dialogue. She requested that this forum should be held more often since these mean a lot to their organizations. Dr. Irene Florentino-Fariñas closed the event by thanking the DOH partners and patient organizations for their active participation.

The DOH, through the Pharmaceutical Division, has regularly been conducting the Patient Forum that focuses on patients’ access to medicines. This has opened the lines of communication between the DOH and the public. It is expected that this will be continued in the coming years to improve existing policies and services as well as contribute in the development of new policies and programs of the DOH.

The Patient Organizations Representatives together with the Panelists and the DOH Officials

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October 2020

Philippine Standard time

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