House committee helps combat counterfeit drugs

September 8, 2021 Ryan Ponce Pacpaco 1349 views

THE House committee on health has approved bills that seek to strengthen traditional and complementary medicine and the regulatory system to combat counterfeit drugs.

Quezon Rep. Angelina “Helen” Tan, principal author of House Bill (HB) 9160, which seeks to strengthen the traditional and complementary medicine system by amending Republic Act (RA) No. 8423 or the Traditional and Alternative Medicine Act of 1997” and HB 4779, which seek to strengthen the regulatory system in the country to combat counterfeit pharmaceutical products, welcomed the approval.

Tan, a doctor, explained that “these proposals form an integral part of the on-going national efforts to build a more resilient health system, especially in the face of the COVID-19 (coronavirus disease-19) pandemic, which has brought about unique health challenges the world over and for many Filipinos, it means soaring costs of hospitalization, medication, and healthcare amid shrinking budget and stagnant or even lost income.”

“This pandemic has shown us just how indispensable the provision of safe and effective traditional medicine is as a critical tool for increasing overall access to health care and combatting the COVID-19 pandemic – and that is something we must never take for granted,” Tan, chairperson of the House committee on health, said.

She also stressed that “more than 20 years since RA 8203, otherwise known as the “Special Law on Counterfeit Drugs”, was enacted, there have been many changes in the industry and in anti-counterfeiting technologies, but the continuing real threat that counterfeit pharmaceutical products present to health, to the security of our children, our family and, in general, to the prosperity of our community cannot be overemphasized. It cannot be denied that we are faced by a rapidly growing flood of illegal and dangerous pharmaceutical products.”

HB 9160 aims to strengthen the TAMA Law of 1997 by increasing safeguards that will adequately ensure safety, standardization, efficacy, quality, availability and preservation of services that are made available to the public.

The bill is primarily designed to meet head-on the challenges besetting the Traditional and Alternative Health Care Industry and to attain its ultimate goal of providing the people with a wider range of quality, safe, effective and cost-efficient health services. Once enacted into law, it will enable the Philippine Institute of Traditional and Alternative Health Care (PITAHC) to have exclusive authority as well as to unify all the regulations concerning traditional and complementary medicine that will facilitate the establishment of a one-stop-shop for the provision of licenses, certificates and the likes for the practitioners and operators.

HB No. 4779, on the other hand, seeks to strengthen the regulatory system in the country to combat counterfeit pharmaceutical products by declaring the manufacture, importation, distribution, sale or offer for sale, or possession of counterfeit pharmaceutical products as an offence involving economic sabotage and providing stricter penalties for violations of this Act.

RA 8203 or the Special Law on Counterfeit Drugs defines counterfeit medicines, declares prohibited acts, identifies liable parties, and imposes administrative sanctions and penalties involved.

It was enacted in 1996 and is in force for more than 24 years. In spite of this, counterfeit drugs still proliferate in the country.

The implementation of R.A. 8203 has been affected by several counterfeit drug-related cases where the Supreme Court ruling favored the accused.

On one case, the court stated that “Republic Act No. 9502 or the Universally Accessible Cheaper and Quality Medicines Act of 2008 nullifies the reason or purpose of R.A. 8203 so the latter loses all meaning and function”. Several laws enacted by Congress also significantly affected the provisions of RA 8203. Alongside R.A. 9502, Republic Act 9711 or the FDA Act of 2009 and Republic Act 10918 or the Philippine Pharmacy Law, all have inconsistent definition of “drugs”.