• Did Mercury Drug endanger life of diabetic senior citizen?

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    To the type 1 diabetic, the availability of injectable insulin could spell life or death.

    While type 2 diabetics survive on ingested medication, with the generic drug metformin being the most common and available in just about any drugstore throughout the country, insulin is harder to come by since it must be refrigerated to remain effective.

    For better or for worse, insulin is usually purchased by type 1 diabetics in Mercury Drug braches. Mercury Drug’s main competitor, Watson’s, does not generally sell insulin, except for a handful of branches.

    When a diabetic heads to the nearest branch of Mercury Drug, therefore, it is because there are few other choices where the lifeline medication is available.

    On October 31, a retired 62-year-old diabetic whose blood sugar had risen to dangerously high levels, and who had run out of insulin, headed to a branch of Mercury Drug in Makati City. Raul Dimaano had just picked up his son from school when he dropped by the Zobel Roxas branch of the drugstore.

    By then, Dimaano felt like collapsing.

    At the senior citizen’s counter, he presented the “yellow booklet” and doctor’s prescription. Dimaano, however, forgot to bring his senior citizen’s ID, although he had other government-issued identification like his driver’s license.

    Without that senior citizen’s ID, he was told that he would not have gotten the 32 percent discount for his insulin. Under the Senior Citizen’s Law, anyone aged 60 and above is automatically entitled to a 20 percent discount on purchases of medication, and the 12 percent tax is also waived. That law does not say that the ID must be presented. Any valid ID is good enough. Besides, the record of the sale is placed on the yellow booklet.

    Depending on the brand, a syringe with insulin would cost somewhere in the vicinity of P800. Less the discount, it becomes less than P600. How long the set lasts depends on how much insulin a patient’s doctor prescribes.

    (Note: This writer is also a type 1 diabetic and his Lantus insulin syringe is good for 10 days worth of injections.)

    What happened next to Dimaano became a nightmare that could have turned fatal.
    The counter clerk refused to sell him his much-needed medication, one that he needed on the spot.

    “I told them that I needed the insulin immediately,” he told The Manila Times. The clerk still refused because he did not have the necessary ID. He presented his driver’s license that showed his true age. This was not accepted by the Mercury Drug staff.

    Instead, he was told to return with the ID. The clerk even told him that he looked like a strong guy who seemed pretty healthy.

    Dimaano admits that he only had enough cash on hand to buy insulin at a senior’s discount. The Senior Citizen’s Act states that any government issued ID is sufficient proof that entitles a Filipino senior citizen to the discounts in the absence of the senior citizen’s card.

    Physically, Dimaano does appear to be outwardly healthy. Prior to retiring, he had worked as executive assistant of National Bureau of Investigation Director Magtanggol Gatdula.

    But any doctor will say that outward appearances can be deceiving, especially in the case of diabetics. They may appear healthy, but when their blood sugar shoots up or sinks to dangerous levels, a coma will follow. Well-known singer Gary Valenciano is a type 1 diabetic, as is LA Revilla, team captain of the La Salle Green Archers which won the UAAP championship this year.

    With insulin, type 1 diabetics can lead very normal lives. Without it when they need it, they can collapse at any moment.

    And because diabetes is a debilitating disease that attacks the other internal organs, Dimaano also has a heart condition. He already had an angioplasty. Besides this, he is also suffering from cirrhosis of the liver.

    He warned the Mercury Drug staff that this was a matter of life and death, but they still refused to sell him the insulin. Dimaano identified the staff as Mrs. Nannette Manangco (sales supervisor) and Pamela Griego (sales clerk).

    Dimaano was not alone when the incident occurred. His son was in his car, but could not come to his rescue because the teenager was recuperating from injuries sustained in a school accident.

    How he made it home, he does not recall. He was eventually able to buy his medication at another branch of Mercury.

    For ordinary people, a blood sugar count of between 90 and 130 is considered normal.

    Once it exceeds this level, a person is officially a diabetic. If a diabetic’s blood sugar is consistently high despite taking medication, his condition is said to have worsened to the point that he becomes a type 1 diabetic. He needs insulin everyday to survive.

    At the time that Dimaano related this incident to the Times, his blood sugar level was 400-plus, enough to send him into a coma. He said that he felt just as bad, if not worse, when he went to Mercury Drug that day.

    Dimaano said he warned the staff of the drugstore that he would sue, given the fact that they had willfully endangered his life by refusing to sell him his medicine.

    Today, more than three weeks after the incident, he is still angry at what he underwent in the hands of people who should have known better.

    This diabetic has seen for himself how Mercury Drug seems to have inconsistent policies where the sale of such drugs as insulin is concerned. In one branch of the drugstore in Bicutan, a sales clerk said that the prescription for insulin had to be specific and for one time use only. Meaning any diabetic who needed to buy the drug had to go back to his doctor again and again.

    The staff at another branch also in Bicutan know better. All they require is to see the prescription and the sale is consummated without a problem.

    As Raul Dimaano mulls whether to sue the country’s largest drugstore chain or not – he is aware that it will cost him a lot in legal fees – he says that he thinks often of what could have happened to him had the fates been less kind.

    He could have collapsed and died on the spot because the staff of one branch of Mercury Drug said he looked strong enough to go home and get the necessary ID, one which the law says was not absolutely necessary, given his condition. Given this, refusing a diabetic his insulin is tantamount to denying a drowning man a ring buoy or lifesaver.

    Dimaano is one of millions of diabetics in the world. The Philippines has an estimated six million diabetics, and ranks tenth among countries with the highest diabetes incidence worldwide.

    Diabetes is four times more common than all cancer cases combined.

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    14 Comments

    1. Mercury Drug branches experience is as article says. One time use of maintenance prescription, no senior id and booklet, no discount, various levels of strictness but all strictly enforcing no id no discount. Mercury Drug, ang botikang walalng puso. Yan dapat slogan nila!

      • Ano pa ba ang ibang mga botika sa Metromanila na puedeng bilhan ng mga kinakailangang gamot? Paki lista din dito ng ma-boycott natin ang Mercury Drug.

    2. “For ordinary people, a blood sugar count of between 90 and 130 is considered normal.
      Once it exceeds this level, a person is officially a diabetic. If a diabetic’s blood sugar is consistently high despite taking medication, his condition is said to have worsened to the point that he becomes a type 1 diabetic. He needs insulin everyday to survive.”

      Diabetes does not worsen to become type 1, it is either type 1 or type 2. Insulin is the ONLY treatment for type 1 whereas type 2 can be treated with oral medication for a long time but may graduate to insulin if blood sugars don’t stabilize.

      I think Mr. Dimaano should sue Mercury Drug or if not the Philippine Government should sue Mercury Drug for the people in order to bring to light this malpractice. Pharmacy sales assistants need adequate training if they are going to sell medicines. Are there pharmacists in the branches who can supervise them and know about the implications of the drugs they sell? Mercury Drug has the monopoly of vital drugs in the Philippines, they need to be sanctioned and regulated by the government.

      On the other hand, diabetics should not wait till the their insulin is almost gone before going to the pharmacy because of this kind of situation. Insulin and other diabetic supplies such as syringes, blood test strips, lancets are expensive but you cannot put your life at the mercy of these ignorant sales staff. I am a diabetic type 1 for the past 46 years.

    3. Rusty E Contreras on

      He should sue and ask for a Free Lawyer assistance from the Government and see what will happen.

    4. Let him sue and get this in the open. Trouble with Senior Discount is that the discount is eaten (carried) by the merchant and not by the government through Department of Social Welfare.

    5. Don’t they have policies and procedures to follow para pareho sa lahat ng branches…they should train their employees.

    6. Arch.Angel(Lito) Lingan Mallonga on

      It is so sad to hear this at all. Senior Citizen with proofs of any ID Card including Drivers License is good enough. Mercury Drug and other Drug Stores should train there salesperson in the counter and there should be a strong law in PH that if they will not abide to it will have to pay big time. If this would happened here in North America they will be sued Millions of Dollars including Doctors on Mal Practice . But not in the Philippines.

      Diabetic regardless Type 1 or Type 2 needs to be address. More information be taught not only for Senior Citizen but in Schools in Primary and Secondary. Children are also included here as they do not know if they have high sugar or not. Due to the cost not all can afford the medicine regardless whether insulin of tablets. ASEANS including PH are prone to Diabetes. We eat a lot of Rice and lots of Sugar Content. The Government should start to produce our own medicine just like India and support Research & Development to find solutions on plants that might do it.

      Anyways, most Medicines comes from Plants . Banaba leaves can clean our Kidney. Acacia Bark and Flowers can be dried and used for tea. It will clean all the toxic in our body. The only drawback is you have to go to the washroom from time to time to pee.

    7. Mercury Drug staff in their Montalban Branch is also strict when it comes to Senior Citizen ID, I am also a diabetic but not yet entitled for a Senior Citizen ID. I am usually buying my medicine supply for two weeks on that branch and usually waiting for my turn beside the Sr citizen counter , it is a normal scenario that Mecury drug staff refuses any SR citizen customer availing discounts if they forgot to bring their Senior Citizens ID.

    8. Mr. Dimaano should sue. Such was the case of Lawyer Romulo Macalintal who filed cases against two restaurants for refusing to grant senior citizens discount in the absence of identification cards issued by the government. The managers gave in and apologized eventually. But Macalintal is a lawyer and he definitely knew the law while Mr. Dimaano is an ordinary citizen, who may have reservation in filing the case because he is not financially capable.

      Unlike before when Mercury Drug caters only to the medicine requirements of customers, the groceries that were added amongst its stuff made it look like a palengke. Here in Rosario, Cavite, customers who are curious about prices will not enjoy shopping at this outlet as most items on the shelves do not have price tags, a clear violation of R.A. 7394.

    9. Please persuade him to sue.please help thousands of fellow diabetics with that lawsuit.he can save lives by making that difference

    10. He should sue and collect damages. Mercury Drug personnel should be instructed that the booklet and the prescription are sufficient to be entitled to the Senior Citizen Discount.

    11. jeanette ann posadas on

      I am a diabetic also, and understand the writer’s sentiments. Likewise, I know how exorbitant legal fees can be. But I still believe a complaint must be filed. The concerned Mercury Drug staff have much to answer for, as does the firm they represent. Ginugulo lang nila ang polisiya sa pagbebenta ng gamot para sa mga diabetics at senior citizens, and for what end? Gusto ba talaga ninyong makapatay ng kapwa ninyo?