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Bacolod City, Philippines Wednesday, August 14, 2019
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A Commission on Audit 2018 report has found that the Department of Health has accumulated drugs and medicines amounting to P18.4 billion that are undistributed and approaching their expiry dates. The same audit report also found that over P30-million worth of drugs and medicines distributed to various centers for health development, treatment for rehabilitation centers, and hospitals were already expired.

The audit report has led Senate finance committee chairman Juan Edgardo Angara to seek a Senate inquiry into the overstocking of drugs and medicines by the DOH. Angara wants the DOH to explain this issue considering these undistributed drugs and medicines cost billions while many Filipinos are struggling to find ways to gain access to medicine due to lack of funds.

The senator said the DOH’s perennial problem with undistributed expired drugs will be a “major point of interest” in the upcoming Senate hearings on the proposed 2020 national budget of the agency. Angara said this wastage of hundreds of millions worth of medicines “is becoming like dengue, it has become an annual thing” at the DOH.

He added that DOH officials who will appear before his panel “should be ready with a plan on how to end this problem” as he urged the department to review its entire drug supply chain from procurement to stocking in hospital pharmacies.

The DOH has reported that it has resolved the problem of overstocking but Angara wants to know the reason behind the overstocking in order to determine if there was a mismatch between the items procured and the actual requirements of the population.

The issue of perennial overstocking resulting in the waste of hundreds of millions worth of medicines by the DOH is not a new one and should’ve been immediately addressed when it was first uncovered by the COA. Every year the DOH says it has resolved the problem but every year it comes back to haunt the Filipino people who go to their government for help with their medicines but are often turned away for one reason or another.

Will the overstocking and expiration problem of the DOH be finally resolved this year? Hopefully the COA results and the Senate inquiry into the issue can find a lasting solution to what seems like a simple problem but has managed to annually rear its ugly head. A poor country like the Philippines cannot afford to waste billions of pesos worth of medicines due to inefficiency and apathy, especially when a population of more than 100 million should ensure that whatever medicines government has stocked could be used by its people before the expiration dates come.*

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