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SWS: Nearly all Filipinos say gov’t must provide free medicines to the people

SWS: Nearly all Filipinos say gov’t must provide free medicines to the people

The national Social Weather Stations (SWS) Survey of December 12 – 16, 2021 found that nearly all Filipinos believe that it is the government’s responsibility to provide free medicines to patients who need them.

The SWS survey on Filipino’s Preference on Access to Medicines and Partnerships with the Pharmaceutical Sector reported that 96% of adult respondents said that that the government “should definitely” (78%) and “should probably” (17%) provide free medicines to those who need them. The SWS also noted that there is very strong agreement across demographics, ranging from net +89 to +98.  

Ahead of the May 2022 national elections, the SWS survey with 1,440 adult respondents nationwide also revealed the issues that should be addressed to lower or remove the high out-of-pocket spending of Filipinos when it comes to healthcare. Out-of-pocket spending is the expense for medical care that families pay directly from their own money or savings.  

With Filipinos paying mostly for their own medicines, the survey found that medicines ranked first as the most burdensome healthcare expense, followed by payment for doctor’s fees, laboratory fees, and hospital room if hospitalized.  

At present, it is estimated that for every P100 spent on medicines, P85 is paid out-of-pocket by Filipino families or shared by voluntary private insurance. The country’s private share in medicine expense is one of the highest in the world compared with Malaysia (45%), South Korea (42%), New Zealand (32%), and Thailand (9%).

Reflective of the desire to eliminate out-of-pocket expenses, the survey reported the high preference of Filipinos for free and subsidized medicines as the most helpful ways of obtaining medicines for a grave illness. At present, the government is providing subsidized or free medicines for certain diseases but would need to be expanded to provide more support to patients, and cover more health conditions especially for economically challenged patients. 

The respondents ranked “Guaranteed PhilHealth financial subsidy to cover full or a portion of medication expenses” as the top choice (average rank score of 1.92, with 1 as the highest) closely followed by “Acquire free medications procured by the government from public hospitals, health centers and government pharmacies” (1.97).  

Ranked third as the most helpful way to obtain medicines is to “Fully pay for the total cost of the prescribed medicines at a discounted price” (2.91) while fourth in the list is to “Fully pay for the total cost of the prescribed medicines first, and ask government to reimburse the full amount after” (3.19).  

Forum organizers namely the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (ECCP), Medicines Transparency Alliance (MeTA) Philippines, Stratbase ADR Institute (ADRi), UHC Watch and the Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines (PHAP) agreed that increased government investment for medicines is necessary to improve its medicine expense share which is now only at 15%. 

As the country continues to battle with COVID-19 for the last two years, the SWS survey likewise found that among Filipinos, the efficacy of the medicine is the most important attribute of a COVID-19 drug. Efficacy is the ability of the medicine to achieve the desired beneficial effect on a patient. This was followed by affordability, safety, accessibility, and availability of supply. 

The survey, which was commissioned by PHAP, also named the most important areas where government should collaborate with pharmaceutical companies. On top of the list for partnership is “Spreading knowledge and understanding of healthcare” (2.79), followed by “Solving the problems brought about by the pandemic” (2.81),  “Ensuring the availability of medicines” (2.83), “Helping to make medicines free, or at least affordable and accessible” (3.14), and “Undertaking research on and promoting the development of new medicines in the country” (3.42).

Survey background:

The survey questions were commissioned by the Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines and implemented within the SWS December 12-16, 2021 national survey using face-to-face interviews of 1,440 adults (18 years old and above) nationwide: 360 each in Balance Luzon, Metro Manila, the Visayas, and Mindanao. The sampling error margins are ±2.6% for national percentages and ±5.2% for Balance Luzon, Metro Manila, the Visayas, and Mindanao.

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About The Author

Raymund Ravanera is an accomplished and experienced graphic designer with almost 20 years of creative expertise working in the graphic design industry. He loves the latest gadgets, food and movies. Currently, he owns and manages megabites.com.ph, an online technology and lifestyle blog since 2015.

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