Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Health Transparency 13: MeTA International Visit to Manila

Last Wednesday, April 10, 2013, the International MeTA Secretariat (IMS) visited Manila to meet up with Medicines Transparency Alliance (MeTA) Philippines Council officers and members, and attend the MeTA Discussion Series on PhilHealth's primary care benefit (PCB) new packages. I am one of the members, that's why I was there.

The three visitors from IMS were Dr. Tim Reed, Executive Director, Health Action International (HAI), Ms. Renee Vasbiner, Administrative Coordinator - MeTA Secretariat, HAI, and Ms. Deirdre Dimancesco. Technical Officer, Medicines, Access and Rational Use, Department of Essential Medicines and Health Products, WHO HQ. 

Tim Reed here speaking during the meeting with MeTA Philippines members, headed by Chairman Roberto "Obet" Pagdanganan (former Bulacan Governor, former PITC President) and Ms. Cecile Sison, MeTA Secretary General. 

The morning meeting was mainly on internal matters, like updates on both the international and Philippines offices of MeTA. There was a brief discussion though on pharmacovigilance, presented by Dr. Mariano Lopez. It is a joint project by the Philippine College of Physicians (PCP), MeTA Philippines, and the Rotary Club of Manila, in coordination with the FDA. Gov. Obet is also the club President this rotary year 2012-13.

The plan is to conduct random drug tests from selected drugstores and hospital pharmacies in terms of drug quality and safety. Any anomaly that will be detected, FDA can quickly act. The results of the FDA laboratory test will be (1) shared among the hospital therapeutics committees to improve drug procurement on the basis of good quality drugs and/or; (2)announced to the general public with considerations for possible litigations and/or; (3)left to FDA’s discretion and regulation.

For me this is a good initiative. Civil society organizations like PCP, MeTA and some Rotary Clubs can and should initiate this kind of projects to further protect patients. One participant narrated that they conducted a similar pharmacovigilance survey in the past, and they encountered difficulty getting the support and cooperation of some government hospitals, especially those run by the LGUs. For instance, they discovered that in a provincial hospital in Bohol, an IV supplied to the hospital was improperly packaged in a mineral water bottle (!).
In many instances, when politics and certain government bodies come in, the result is not cheaper medicines but expensive medicines as the purchase price tend to be very high, certain officials pocket the huge price differential. Or purchase price may not be too high but product quality is either inferior or suspect and this can be dangerous to patients who will get those "free medicines/vaccines".

Ms. Deirdre Dimancesco of Department of Essential Medicines and Health Products, WHO Geneva, also presented about WHO's commitments and how the MeTA projects and activities jibe. The current MeTA project and funding is on Phase 2 already, to last until 2015. Phase 1 covered 2008 to 2012 I think.

MeTA projects are conducted in seven countries, below. The emphases is on the role of civil society organizations.

The afternoon discussion was fantastic. It was a presentation by PhilHealth's updates on PCB 2 and what were the new features and services on top of PCB 1. The presenter was from PhilHealth, headed by Dr. Liezel Lagrada. The reactors were from the (1) Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines (PHAP), (2) Philippine Chamber of Pharmaceutical Industry (PCPI), (3) Drug Stores Association of the Philippines (DSAP), (4) Philippine Pharmacists Association (PPhA), and (5) Coalition for Health Advocacy and Transparency (CHAT).

See my discussion on PhilHealth Watch 15: Rising Claims for NCDs.

See also:
Health Transparency 1: MeTA Forum January 2009, January 26, 2009 
Health Transparency 3: MeTA Forum January 2010 (Prevention vs. Medication), January 27, 2010 
Health Transparency 8: Advisory Council on RA 9502, June 11, 2012 
Health Transparency 11: MeTA Philippines and Multistakeholder Process, September 19, 2012 
Health Transparency 12: MeTA Philippines Dynamism, October 02, 2012

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