VALLEHERMOSO, CARMEN, BOHOL — Had she been in the same situation eight years ago, Jesusa Panes would have probably just given birth at home, even without her husband in sight, and even if her neighbor the hilot (traditional birthing attendant) happened to be drunk. But things have not been the same for expectant mothers in this town since 2002, and so when the child in her belly starting demanding to be let out, Panes began trudging toward the birthing center that was several minutes away by foot from her home.
IT WON’T be over even after the lady signs. And even after she signs it, the fight for popular access to affordable medicines won’t be over.
All that the cheaper medicines bill needs to be enacted into law is the signature of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. But some legal experts lament that as enrolled, the bill passed by Congress bears “imperfections” that effectively affirm the patent rights of big pharmaceutical companies over public health, a major hurdle to bringing down drug prices.
EVERY NOW and then representatives of pre-need companies offer me insurance packages for my parents and me. Name it, they’ve tried to sell it to me — life and accident insurance plans, health plans, even memorial plans. But I always say no. It’s not that I’m not interested; I simply don’t have the extra money to pay for the premiums. Whatever I make as a media worker and from occasional writing and editing projects is just enough for my parents’ and my own daily needs. Which is why many view my family’s ability to hurdle major medical emergencies as nothing short of miraculous.
THE 2001 World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference in Doha reaffirmed that the TRIPS Agreement “can and should be interpreted and implemented in a manner supportive of the WTO members’ right to protect public health and, in particular, to promote access to medicines for all.” The Declaration sustained the right of developing countries like the Philippines to enforce public health safeguards so as to enable price reductions via generic competition. “Paragraph 6 Public Health Solution” of the Declaration even directed WTO member countries to facilitate access to generic medicines by poor countries with insufficient or no pharmaceutical manufacturing capacities.
BY THE time Hazel Divinagracia-Coton’s grandfather suffered his second heart attack last February, he was already on medication for diabetes. After the attack, 69-year-old Lolo Rodolfo was put on more medication, this time for his heart condition.
In total, his doctors prescribed 17 kinds of medicine for him to take each day, putting a strain on his family’s finances. Lolo Rodolfo and his wife relied on a P14,000 monthly pension, but with the promise of some monetary help from the rest of the family, they hatched a plan that had them buying only the “more important drugs” — worth a total of P600 a day — to see him through.
IT’S A shimmery, shiny substance that seems to have a mind of its own when held between one’s fingers. In the Philippines, it is commonly found in thermometers that are widely used in hospitals to check on patients’ temperatures or are sold over the counter for household use. Other medical devices, in fact, still use elemental or metallic mercury — even if this is a known toxic substance that can be absorbed by the skin and can easily penetrate biological membranes, including the blood-brain barrier. When inhaled, mercury vapors can cause neurological and behavioral disorders, and sometimes can lead to death. Even at low doses, these vapors can have harmful effects on the kidneys, and the digestive, respiratory, and immune systems.
NOT TOO long ago, protests were at fever-pitch over how healthcare facilities in the country disposed of their waste. After all, study after study had pointed to an increasing share of healthcare waste in the total municipal solid waste stream. More importantly, that included infectious and hazardous wastes whose then rather haphazard handling, storage, treatment, and disposal had activists and other observers sick with worry about their adverse health and environmental effects.
WHETHER it’s beer, stress, or too much sleep, there is a form of poison present in the lives of many of us.
We asked people to name their poisons, be it stress, negativity, or a set of squabbling parents. You’d be surprised at what they had to say.
© 1989–2019 All rights reserved. Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism.