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17:19 ET LOW PRICED MEDICINES TO BE AVAILABLE IN THE PHILIPPINES SEPT


MANILA, Aug 14, 2000 (AsiaPulse via COMTEX) -- From September consumers will be able to buy low-priced medicines in select outlets accredited by the Department of Health (DOH).

Health Secretary Alberto Romualdez Jr said the first shipment of such medicines was due to arrive in September.

He said this effort resulted from a directive from President Joseph Estrada to government officials to make life-saving drugs available to the masses at affordable prices.

"In a month, select medicines will be available through the efforts of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI)," Romualdez said in a radio interview.

He said the medicines would initially be available in select DOH-accredited outlets and would subsequently be distributed elsewhere.

"Once we are assured of the process, that they are consistently of good quality, we will expand this to provincial outlets of the DOH," he said.

The DOH was also negotiating with small drug stores to distribute the medicines, he added.

Earlier, Estrada noted the high prices of medicines sold by retail outlets, which, according to him, cost 10 times as much as those sold in other Asian countries.

He cited, for instance, that five pieces of ventolin, a drug for bronchial asthma or bronchitis, cost 294.75 pesos (US$6.50) in the Philippines but could be bought for the equivalent of 79.06 pesos (US$1.75) in India.

Last year, the President ordered Romualdez to explore more ways of deflating the cost of medicines in the Philippines.

Besides opening Botika ng Masa (Pharmacy of the Masses) outlets nationwide to enable poor patients to buy lower-priced medication, Estrada also ordered Romualdez to encourage people to use generic medicines and ensure doctors complied with the Generics Law.

Estrada has a standing order to the DOH to pinpoint the weak link in the supply chain of medicines in the country.

He said possible government support could be extended in imports and manufacturing, marketing, distribution and retail trading of low-priced medicines.

(PNA)





(C) 2000 Asia Pulse Pte Ltd


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INDUSTRY KEYWORD: Health/Pharmaceuticals
                  Regulations / Law
                  Trade/foreign investment


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