Highlights of RH debates, Feb.21

Highlights of RH debates, Feb.21
Senate Plenary
Sen. Pia S. Cayetano (sponsoring)
Sen. Loren Legarda (interpellating)

Note: Main points that were raised from Tuesday’s (Feb.21) floor deliberations on Senate Bill No.2865, the Reproductive Health or RH Bill. Not to be treated as a transcript of the proceedings.

Continuation of discussion on the list of essential medicines and the National Formulary Committee

Sen. Loren Legarda (SLL): [Follows up on her previous question about the composition and decision-making process of the National Formulary Committee…]

Sen. Pia S. Cayetano (SPSC): [Citing AO No. 2006-0018, implementing guidelines for the National Formulary System] There are 13 core members, as amended from 10 members, representing broad societal perspectives and with various expertise. Council has been renamed the ‘Formulary Executive Council.’ Secretary of Health has appointing authority. The Council is the sole authority on listing and delisting of drugs.

Drugs included in the list are those that have higher benefits and lower costs. [She then cites an example of one drug on hypertension which was deleted and replaced with a better one.] The list is the basis of the purchase of LGUs; it allows them to purchase those listed.

SLL: Among contraceptive supplies, which are included in the list of essential medicines?

SPSC: Hormonal contraceptives, pills, injectables are listed, but not condoms and IUDs because these are not drugs. We will make amendments to make other devices included in a list like this so LGUs can procure these; though not under the essential medicines list because they are not drugs.

SLL: How long have these [contraceptive supplies] been listed? Was there any objection from former President [Corazon] Aquino, because she was Catholic?

SPSC: Since 1986. The former President did not object to this. The problem is when we have presidents who are not supportive of RH, [then] these programs go unfunded.

SLL: These medications have been listed for a long time but have been unfunded because of priorities? How much was given for this in the 2012 budget?

SPSC: Yes. They have been unfunded. In the 2012 budget, the figures have been put on record during a previous interpellation. These [contraceptive supplies] are to be given for free to those belonging in the lowest quintile based on a list by DSWD.

SLL: How do women actually benefit from this budget? Can a woman walk inside a health center and ask for the service? And is there a doctor to consult in these centers?

SPSC: We are actually only funding for less than 300,000 women because of the budget limitations of DOH. This is based on personal needs, goals and beliefs. [Provides matrix on how the budget per region were distributed]

SLL: Any pharmaceutical company consulted in the National Formulary Committee?

SPSC: No, but they are invited during hearings and consultations.

SLL: Will generic or favored brands be recommended under the bill/formulary?

SPSC: Generic, for cost-effectiveness.

SLL: Are the members of the Formulary Committee given individual votes on any proposal including or deleting a drug?

SPSC: Yes.

SLL: Does the bill propose to expand the list of essential medicines?

SPSC: We want to establish that we recognize that the Formulary Committee has included these drugs and we want it to stay this way. What we intend to do is have an understanding that there are family planning supplies that are not drugs.

On budget

SSL: During our previous interpellation, I asked whether allocation for this program should be made on top and along other important programs of the government.

SPSC: Yes.

SLL: How much would purchase of medicines cost if this proposed law is implemented?

SPSC: P1.1 billion for the purchase of drugs and supplies. More than P2-billion budget will include services, preparation of programs, training of health workers, information and education.

SLL: How can we be certain that the distribution of condoms and other supplies will be used for the ends of the bill and not for other purposes?

SPSC: The bill also provides for proper education and information to empower parents and for these not to be used for other purposes.

SLL: If we pass this, how will we fund the program? Are we going to take it away from some other program?

SPSC: This has always been our challenge every time a priority measure is introduced. We know that with proper planning, there are areas and expenses that can be shared from other areas. We need to be resourceful.

SLL: I ask this because of the challenges that the country is facing today.

SPSC: We already know that the government has a huge amount for CCT (P34 billion). Compared to it, we need only P1 billion for RH. I would emphasize that expenses for childbirth and pregnancy-related complications cost us, and this will be reduced if we have an RH program.

Note: Next interpellation will discuss the role of the National Formulary Committee.

Photo: Senators Pia Cayetano and Loren Legarda at the continuation of plenary interpellation on the Reproductive Health (RH) bill. (Feb. 21, 2012)

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