Pfizer Philippines is committed not only to providing excellent, research-based healthcare to patients and families all over the country; it also uses the power of partnerships to reach out to communities and make better health a reality for more Filipinos.
Early last year, the Philippine National Police (PNP) partnered with Pfizer Philippines for its newest initiative on improving the health of its ranks in the Police Force - the “KASAMA ng PNP or Kalusugan Para sa Mamamayan” project, under the Pfizer Patient Care Program. The program sets to reinforce the significance of a comprehensive and affordable healthcare system through a holistic approach, complemented by medicine discounts and disease management cards among Filipinos.
The Kasama ng PNP program provides access to quality medicines for all members of the Pfizer Patient Care program in the PNP. It not only offers discounts on various medicines but also provides valuable health and disease information for the patients.
“We are elated to have Pfizer Philippines as our partner in this endeavor. Rest assured, PNP’s full force shall greatly benefit from this excellent proposition and help engender a healthier and more active task force to better fulfill our duties and responsibilities in society,” said PNP Chief Directorial Staff Perfecto Palad.
Pfizer Director for Customer Development Mao Navoa is positive that Pfizer’s mission of “working for a healthier world” is best fulfilled in such initiatives to educate and empower patients to lead longer, healthier and happier lives.
“Our partnership with the government and private institutions on public health programs, such as the PNP, ignites our mission to continue using our innovations for the benefit of society. With PNP’s daunting task of maintaining peace and order in the country, it is paramount that they continue to be healthy individuals. And we are honored to contribute to a healthier police force,” Navoa adds.
Following the successful partnership of Pfizer with the PNP, the local governments of Albay, Cebu, and Palawan, likewise sealed its partnership with Pfizer for the launch of KASAMA Program in three separate occasions. The Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) and full implementation of KASAMA program was inked by the three LGUs to expand access to quality and affordable Pfizer medicines among their respective constituents.
In Albay, Governor Joey Salceda said that the healthcare reform in Albay is one of the top priorities of his government. He shared that the Province of Albay has already accomplished its Millennium Development Goals (MDG) seven years ahead of its target timeline. Through the partnership with Pfizer, Gov. Salceda said that the KASAMA program has been successful in supporting the government’s thrust of providing quality healthcare to Filipinos.
In Cebu, Governor Gwendolyn Garcia together with Cebu Provincial Health Office Head Dr. Cristina B. Giango, Provincial Board Member Agnes Magpale, signed the agreement with Pfizer represented by Director for Medical and Regulatory Affairs Dr. Anthony Leachon, Customer Development Group Director Mao Navoa, Public Affairs Director Patricia Pascual, Customer Development Group Senior Manager Angel Sunga and Program Development Officer George Flores.
Meanwhile, Palawan Governor Baham Mitra expressed appreciation to Pfizer for reinforcing quality and comprehensive healthcare available and accessible to Filipinos. “KASAMA Program will not only help my constituents but also help improve our LGU scorecard rating as mandated by the Department of Health (DOH).”
Under the Kasama Program, a health discount card will be available to city health offices, provincial, municipal, and hospitals identified by the provincial government. A 20 to 60 percent discount in 20 participating Pfizer products can be availed by the bearer of the Kasama Card.
“The KASAMA Program is enabling and supporting local governments to have access to quality and affordable Pfizer medicines for their constituents,” said Pfizer Customer Development Group Senior Manager - Expanded Access Angel G. Sunga. Through the Kasama Program, Sunga said that the “disadvantaged sements” of the society would have more access to quality health care by providing them more value through disease management care and affordable medicines.
Since its launch in 2002, the KASAMA program has benefited close to 2 million Filipinos with 1,800 drug store partners nationwide.
SAMAHAN Laban sa Pekeng Gamot
The proliferation of fake medicines in the country has taken a toll in the pharmaceutical industry, posing health and safety hazards to consumers. Pfizer Philippines together with multi-sectoral coalition against fake medicines or Samahan Laban sa Pekeng Gamot (SAMAHAN) are pushing for vigilance against counterfeits and working towards aggressive counterfeiting programs to protect consumers.
One of every 10 medicines in the Philippines is fake --- this only manifests the high proliferation of counterfeit medicines in the country. Samahan said that this figure is based on the reported cases to the Department of Health, but it may account for as high as 30 percent - eating up a big chunk of the pharmaceutical market, thus endangering lives of people.
Fake medicines or counterfeit drugs are defined by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as those sold under a product name without proper authorization. Counterfeiting can apply to both branded and generic products, where the identity of the source is mislabeled in a way that suggests that it is the authentic approved product. Counterfeit products may include products without the active ingredient, with an insufficient or excessive quantity of the active ingredient, with the wrong active ingredient, or with fake packaging.
The Samahan Laban sa Pekeng Gamot or Samahan, a coalition composed of pharmaceutical companies drug stores and medical professionals, aims to increase awareness and promote vigilance among the public towards fake drugs. Formed in 2004, its members include the Department of Justice, Drugstores Association of the Philippines, GMA-7 Network, Janssen Pharmaceutica, Food and Drugs Administration, Mercury Drug, Pfizer, Philippine Daily Inquirer, Philippine Medical Association, Philippine Pharmacists Association, Drug Stores Association of the Philippines, Watsons, Zuellig Pharma, Pascual Laboratories, and MedExpress.
A Perfect Crime
Samahan describes counterfeting of medicines as a “perfect crime”. According to Dr. Maria Minerva Calimag, Samahan Spokesman and Chair of the Cosmetics Committee of the Philippine Medical Association (PMA), “consumers unwittingly buy from drugstores with counterfeit medicines. If that patient dies, no one will be going to report anymore because the patient is already dead.” She said that fake medicines should be flushed out immediately from the market since it poses great health risks to people. “The counterfeits are hazardous to health because they are neither tested nor approved, may contain toxic, unlisted and substandard ingredients,” Calimag said.
Real vs. Fake medicines
With a high proliferation of counterfeit medicines out in the market, how do you identify counterfeit medicines. “The fake one looks like the real one, from the packaging to the color of the medicine, which makes it harder to tell what is real and what is not,” said Scott Davis, Pfizer’s Regional Senior Director for Global Security-Asia Pacific, who spent over 20 years as criminal investigator in US Customs Service and US Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Davis, who is also a part of the Pharmaceutical Security Institute, said that 99 percent of fake drugs in the Philippines come from China, India, and Pakistan, brought in through smuggling and misdeclaration. “A lot of the illegal importers of fake medicines work the same way as how drug traffickers bring in cocaine and other banned drugs,” he added.
Dr. Calimag said, “to detect counterfeit medicines, consumers must first carefully check the label on the medicine and in the packaging to avoid purchasing the fake ones.” Aside from the label, check the color, texture and if possible, the taste of the medicine. “Beware of the packaging is different especially if the price is significantly low. It is equally critical to buy only from FDA-licensed pharmacy and legitimate channels like drug stores, hospitals and from licensed doctors,” she added.
Slow judicial process
According to Davis, there is a tremendous room for improvement in the country’s judicial process in fighting fake medicines. “It takes 5 to 6 years to reach fruition on certain cases. He urges government for a “rapid response because this involves health and safety issues of people.”
SAMAHAN said the slow grind of the Philippine judicial system is a major factor in the proliferation of fake medicines in the country.
Battling Counterfeit Medicines
Pfizer, together with Samahan is taking initiatives to educate and train regulatory bodies on the detection and evidence gathering of counterfeit drugs. “Because we must go after these criminals, we must protect the consumers. And we could do this by engaging in more aggressive anti-counterfeiting programs,” said Davis. Per R.A. 8203, the selling of fake medicines is a crime punishable by law.
In a press conference held in July 2010, Davis said that he has already conferred with officials in US Embassy in Manila to link him up with the proper local authorities and how they could work together to abate the proliferation of counterfeit medicines in the Philippines. “The level of counterfeit medicines in the Philippines has been stable. There is a lot of work to be done but there is a new administration and new Customs, so I am hopeful and see what we can help.” Davis said that Pfizer has worked with the judiciary in China to improve
regulations and how to strengthen laws against counterfeit drugs. He said that Pfizer is offering its expertise to the government to combat counterfeits.
Pfizer Philippines Public Affairs Director Patricia J. Pascual said that the efforts at the Customs level are very critical as all fake drugs in the domestic market are believed to be imported. “It has been increasing over the years as globalization has made borders porous and has encouraged trade,” she said.
Pfizer Philippines is targeting the Bureau of Customs (BoC) because they are the first line of defense against counterfeit medicines. According to Davis, BoC needs capacity building to be able to detect counterfeit drugs and part of that is training and technology. “No country is immune from it not even the US,” he said. Sources of counterfeit drugs are India, Pakistan, China, and South America. Samahan said that these counterfeits find their way into the market through non-traditional channels with mostly small drugstores and even sari-sari stores as points of sale.
Counterfeit puts life at risk
Dr. Calimag further shared that counterfeits are dangerous to one’s health because these supposed pharmaceutical products are not tested nor approved, which may contain toxic and unlisted ingredients. “An individual who takes a fake drug may be at risk for a number of dangerous health consequences, since the manufacturing sites of these fake meds are not regulated or inspected by authorized agencies,” explained Dr. Calimag. “With counterfeits, patients may experience unexpected side effects, allergic reactions, or worsening of their medical condition.”
In the Philippines, Samahan cited that cases include unregistered medicines or those meds that did not pass through the Bureau of Food and Drug. The most commonly faked medicines are antibiotics, fast-moving over-the-counter drugs, and even food supplements. The group said that the counterfeits are sold at about the same price or slightly lower than their genuine counterparts so as not to raise suspicion on their efficacy.
To further help raise awareness of fake medicines, Presidential Proclamation 2082 was signed declaring the third week of November as the National Consciousness Week against Counterfeit Medicines. “With Proclamation 2082, the public will be made more aware of the harmful effects of fake medicines and efforts to continuously call for action more concerned stakeholders to protect the welfare of Filipino patients will be strengthened with this government initiative,” said Dr. Calimag.
In battling the problem on fake medicines, Samahan urges the public to report incidences of counterfeit drugs either by logging on to www.fakemed.ph or by calling 1-800-10-FAKEMED.