How they almost succeeded in selling us the big lie
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2008-01-31
Let’s face it — Philippine media has been outsmarted by con artists in Congress and other involved branches of government.

Philippine media has allowed itself to fall for the kind of reasoning that existed three, four decades back when “imperialism” was the buzzword and multinationals companies were evil. They believe that doctors salivated for overseas trips and perks from med-reps and big companies and, like programmed robots, they dutifully filled out prescriptions as they were told.

This is the scenario that Congress con artists and their DOH gang mates had painted when they were trying to force the opening of the floodgates for cheap generic medicines.

First, they had to kill the multinational drug firms (MNCs) by calling them greedy opportunists. Second, they wanted to depict doctors as MNC-servile deviants who preyed on their patients. And third, they wanted to demolish the businesses of drug store chains who had earned their keep for years as sources of reliable medicines.

Anyone who defended MNCs was immediately branded as a beneficiary of huge lobby funds. This fictitious lobby fund was even rumored to be P1 billion — an amount so enormous that it should have challenged the doubting Thomases in media right off the bat. Doctors who argued against the folly of generics-only prescribing were invariably labeled as defenders — ergo beneficiaries — of MNC drug firms.

That so-called P1-billion MNC lobby fund sounds more like a diversionary tactic employed by dirty politicians to shift public attention away from their design to create a new drug monopoly founded on cheap generics. You see most, if not all, of those MNCs are public corporations and any such hanky panky as bribing media or other interests groups on their part will result in prosecution worldwide. They simply can’t and won’t risk it.

Also, consumers today are spoiled for choice and technology has empowered them to demonstrate their anger on companies found guilty of unethical practices by boycotting their products and enjoining others to do so.

Madame Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo keeps pitching for foreign investments but when they are here, she allows them to get devoured by the wolves in Congress who pretend to be the champions of the people.

So-called ‘militant’ organizations now seem like remnants of a leftist idealism that has frozen in time and do not even recognize the fact that China and Russia are already very much transformed. They continue to chant the old slogans and the old biases. Hey, will someone take these people out of their miserable time warp?

Take note of this recent development: In a press conference in Sulo Hotel, the DOH admitted guilt for inserting a last minute provision in the House Cheaper Medicines Bills which compelled physicians to prescribe only generics. News reports cited Iloilo Rep. Ferjenel Biron, the primary author of the bill, as the champion now of doctors because Biron said that he was willing to take out the provision.

Now, wait a minute. Do you expect us to believe that the primary author of the bill had been bypassed by DOH and that the DOH on its own had the audacity to insert things on legislative documents without the knowledge of the primary author of the bill? And why is Biron not raising hell against the insertion and is instead using this as some kind of a political coup?

After the doctors’ protests gained sympathy, Biron immediately snaked out of the trap, backed the doctors and has now narrowed down his ire to only the MNCs and the drug store chains. After all, the price regulatory mechanism which he is avidly pushing is expected to be the future goldmine of newfound opportunities.

To make peace with the doctors, the DOH told the Philippine Medical Association (PMA) that it did not think that the generics only provision was necessary because people now prefer generics.

Oh c’mon, Secretary Duque, aside from showing yourself as part of the drug mafia by freely tampering with legislative documents, you also happen to have been bypassed by the Commission on Appointments 12 times because you have never completed the documentary requirements. This hardly inspires trust, does it?

Now, let’s talk about the patients who are the beneficiaries of the cheap drugs — those who belong to the poorer socio-economic classes. Will the poor really benefit from substandard or fake drugs? Where does anyone benefit when a cheap medicine performs only 70% of what the branded drug delivers?

Now, if you impose the generics only rule, what will happen to the medical tourism program that relies so heavily on the integrity of our doctors, our treatment and our medications?

Can you blame doctors for not trusting cheap drug imports when there are only 20 BFAD inspectors for drug stores, 20 for manufacturers, only one for adverse drug reactions? All this is on top of the voluminous work involved from laboratory testing to registration, inspections of drugstores, traders, importers distributors and manufacturers.

Rep. Ferjenel Biron’s main provision is price regulation. Watch him defend that to the death.

  Previous Columns:

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Election lawyer: PCOS critics should put up or shut up

All Excited by Pope Francis

A great disservice to P-Noy

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