MANILA, Philippines — A House panel yesterday approved a bill seeking the stockpiling of medicines for public health emergencies like the current coronavirus pandemic.
The committee on health chaired by Quezon Rep. Helen Tan has approved the substitute to the proposed “Health Procurement and Stockpiling Act,” which seeks to ensure supply of critical drugs, vaccines, devices and materials in times of public health emergencies.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the need to preposition critical and strategic pharmaceuticals and medical devices as well as the supply of raw materials. The country needs to be proactive in its response to public health emergencies,” explained Tan, principal author of the bill.
The bill proposes the creation of the Health Procurement and Stockpiling Bureau under the Department of Health, which will absorb the existing Procurement Service and the Supply Chain Management Service and serve as the principal agency mandated to undertake a transparent, fair, proactive and innovative procurement service for the DOH.
The new bureau will be tasked to stockpile, conserve and facilitate the release of adequate amounts of potentially lifesaving pharmaceuticals, vaccines, devices and materials in times of public health emergencies.
It will also be mandated to identify strategic and critical drugs and medicines, vaccines, devices and materials needed for public health emergencies that have the distinct capability of being stockpiled in strategic and secure areas of the country; supplement drugs and medicines, vaccines, devices and materials to state supplies acting as a stopgap buffer when the immediate supply of adequate amounts of drugs and medicines, vaccines, devices and materials may not be immediately available; and ensure the rotation, replenishment and freshness of stocks and that there exists at all times steady, available and adequate supplies in responding to public health emergencies.
The proposed DOH bureau will also lead in facilitating the creation of a conducive environment to encourage pharmaceutical and device self-sufficiency for medical supplies needed by the country and spearhead the crafting of a multi-sector National Drug and Device Security Program geared towards the country’s self-reliance in producing drugs and medicines, vaccines, devices and materials.
Tan pointed out that based on the Joint External Evaluation Mission report, the Philippines, due to its location, is one of the most natural-disaster prone countries in the world and in the past decade the country has faced challenges in making solid progress in infectious disease control.
“Given this situation, the country’s preparedness in times of public health emergencies is significantly necessary such as during pandemics and natural disasters,” the lawmaker stressed.?
In proposing the measure, Tan lamented how COVID-19 caught the country and the world flatfooted as it affected the global and local production and distribution of pharmaceuticals and medical devices as well as the supply of raw materials.
She recalled how some countries even imposed limits on export of medicines and medical supplies/equipment such as face masks, shields and ventilators to mitigate critical shortages in their countries likewise aggravated the situation.
The lawmaker cited, for instance, the European Union, which imposed a block-wide export ban on some medical protective equipment in order to keep adequate supplies within the region in the face of scarcity in supply amid the increasing demand.