DoH meds buy plan questioned

Department of Health

Proposal to buy P19.1B more medicines in 2020 raises eyebrows in House budget hearing in light of huge stockpile of expired or nearing expiry drugs

THE Department of Health (DOH) is set to spend another P19.1 billion to procure new medicines in 2020, despite getting flagged by the Commission on Audit (CoA) for keeping a large stockpile of unused supplies, some of which have either expired or are nearing expiry due to delayed distribution.

“We’ve gone over the DOH’s proposed budget for 2020, and the department is asking for another P19.1 billion to purchase drugs, medicines and vaccines,” said Anakalusugan Rep. Michael Defensor.

“The amount is P3.7 billion or 24 percent higher than the department’s P15.6-billion allocation this year for the same purpose,” Defensor said.

Last year, the DOH received a P15.6-billion allocation to purchase drugs and medicines, including medical and dental supplies, according to Defensor.

“We are all for the DOH’s purchase of new drugs and medicines, as long as these benefit disadvantaged Filipinos, and do not just go to waste because of bad inventory management and logistical issues in getting the supplies to the provinces,” said Defensor.

A provision in the annual budget for the procurement of drugs and medicines requires that 80 percent of the entire amount allocated should go to the provinces where the incidence of diseases is high, Defensor pointed out.

Defensor said the DOH should consider engaging the services of private logistics service providers to seamlessly handle the warehousing and distribution of the new supplies.

“If the department can afford to spend billions of pesos every year to buy new drugs and medicines, surely it can also afford to pay for private contractors to get the supplies moving fast,” said Defensor.

“There are countless Filipinos – the sick and elderly, pregnant women and infants as well as school children – counting on these supplies to get to them fast through public hospitals, barangay health centers and rural health units,” Defensor said.

Defensor had filed House Resolution (HR) No. 145, urging the House committee on health to get to the bottom of the COA report that flagged the DOH’s overstocking of drugs and medicines.

The DOH as of Dec. 31, 2018 had P18.449 billion worth of drugs and medicines – purchased from 2015 to 2018 – that have yet to be distributed to public health care facilities, according to the COA report.

The inventory includes some P367 million worth of drugs and medicines that have already expired or are set to expire.