Trust your doctor, not your congressman, when it comes to your health
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2008-01-24
I cannot understand why this government does not seem to trust doctors. They shut doctors out from being part of the process in drawing up revised rules on the Milk Code. They have also shut doctors out from rendering their views and insights in formulating the provisions for the cheap medicines bill.

Yesterday, I heard Congressman Teddy Boy Locsin on Radio telling an official of the Philippine Medical Association that he will hold the organization responsible for the consequences if they decide to push through their hospital holiday to protest a provision in the bill prohibiting doctors from prescribing branded medicines.

Perhaps these people in Congress and in the Health Department who are jointly crafting the contents of these bills think that, like them, doctors depend on the popular vote to do their job. Unlike them, doctors spent years and years to sharpen their professional capability. They are trained to heal, not to steal.

My life had depended on the integrity and professionalism of doctors. Since my kidney transplant six years ago, I’m still here and I thank my doctors for that, and of course, the Master Healer of all healers.

If my doctors prefer to always err on the side of caution, making sure that I am prescribed the best proven medication for my various ailments, I thank them for that. They do this because they know from experience that there are risks in prescribing generics or resorting to medicines that had been imported in some country where they sell it cheap.

I sympathize with those who cannot afford branded medicines. I would want good medicines to be affordable and accessible and I would want this done in the proper way, not in the way lawmakers seem to think that everything, including supply and demand, can be legislated.

Some legislations appear to be the answer to all our problems. Bright boys in Congress who are after the almighty vote will always try crafting laws that will force businesses to pay wages they cannot afford. They ignore the natural workings of free competition, the whole rationale behind creating a positive business climate so that entrepreneurs and businessmen can thrive and create job opportunities. This in turn will enable government to have enough revenues to undertake social reforms and poverty alleviation programs.

The role of government is to foster a positive business climate and to oversee private business to make sure they act responsibly and conduct businesses in the highest ethical standards. If I were to grade the government on these parameters, they will fail miserably on all counts. Why? Because this government does not even understand what it means to act responsibly. And worse, this government does not know what it means to act with the highest ethical standards.

So now they must face up to the poor who get sick and cannot afford medicines. Instead of encouraging the growth of a real generics industry, they rush to import medicines from India, even if this happens to be a country notorious for fake medicines. When the cheap medicines come in from India, they’ll resell these with big margins, making sure that the final selling price is slightly lower than those already available in the local market.

They plan to set up many outlets of Botika ng Bayan which will make these cheap imported medicines available to the poor. My first question is: who will check the government on the efficacy or integrity of these medicines? I shudder to think that they will be selling medicines to the poor as though they were selling some downgraded NFA rice, bugs and all.

I ask the same question that Teddy Boy Locsin had asked the PMA: who will take responsibility for the deaths, the deterioration of condition and the added misery of the poor folk whose state of health had been compromised by questionable drugs?

What right do these lawmakers and smart alecks in government have to cast aspersion on our doctors, on legitimate companies, on anyone who happens to present views that will upset their own notion of the problem? Aren’t they legitimate components of our health care system and aren’t we a democracy and must therefore hear all views?

What right do these these lawmakers have to prohibit hearing the views of professional medical doctors when these very lawmakers have been rated by surveys as among the least trusted in the government bureaucracy?

We can only agree that medicines must be accessible to the poorest of the poor. However, yanking available cheap medicines from any part of the world that claims they are genuine is killing a home-grown generics industry just as it will also kill Filipinos.

Canada encouraged the growth of its generics industry and set up the necessary infrastructure to screen the quality and efficacy of medicines, regardless if generics or not. As a result, Canadians are cared for and provided the medicines they need.

What makes Canada different? I think it is because they trust their doctors, their medical industries, generics or otherwise, and they trust their government.


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