UNILAB: ADVOCACY HEEDING CALL FOR AFFORDABLE MEDICINES

MANILA, December 11, 2003 (STAR) "We’re just heeding the patients and doctors’ call."

This was the main reason Unilab executives gave as they reaffirmed their commitment to deliver reasonably priced but affordable medicines, particularly for essential products.

"The doctors and patients’ response has been very encouraging and motivates us to continue our commitment to help bring down the prices of these important products," says James Dio, general manager of Therapharma, one of the divisions of Unilab.

"We want to reassure patients that we’re listening when they ask us to bring down as best as we can the prices of frequently used pharmaceutical products," he says.

Dio adds that the entire management of Unilab has enjoined all its divisions to heed the patients and doctors’ call and to take this seriously as an advocacy they should fight for on behalf of patients and doctors.

Unilab and Therapharma have hosted a series of modest celebrations to show their gratitude to doctors for their overwhelming support for the company’s Heath Plus Value Program (HPVP), which gives additional free tablets of the medicines being taken by their patients.

Thousands of patients from all over the country have sent letters thanking the company for its HPVP and other programs assisting patients.

Alejandra Capitan of Metro Manila writes: "I am a poor woman, a senior citizen, and I cannot afford to buy the medicines at one time. I will be waiting for the free tablets by mail. Thank you very much to Therapharma."

Thelma Villa writes from Bacolod City, expressing gratitude to Dr. Wilson Glen Loire, her personal physician who has diligently taken care of her and who introduced the HPVP to her.

Norberto Aquino, of Poblacion Pura, Tarlac, sends a short message, saying: "Gusto ko pong magpasalamat sa mga libreng tableta na natanggap ko na. Sana mapadalhan nyo pa po ako ulit. Maraming salamat po!"

Because of an advice from regulatory authorities arising from complaints of other pharmaceutical companies, the HPVP will now be discontinued, according to Dio.

But in its place, he says the discounts will be directly integrated in the prices of their simvastatin preparations so more patients can readily avail themselves of the lower prices.

Although health practitioners attribute to Unilab and Therapharma the decision by several multinational companies to lower the prices of cholesterol-lowering drugs, Dio says the doctors and patients made it happen.

"We were just used as an instrument," he says. He hopes that the same thing can happen in other drug segments such as in medicines for high blood pressure, diabetes, lung diseases and other chronic medical problems requiring long-term and sustained treatment.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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