THE House of Representatives’ Committee on Health approved on Wednesday the proposed “Health Procurement and Stockpiling Act,” to ensure access to critical drugs and medicines, vaccines, devices, and materials in times of public health emergencies.
Health Chairman and Quezon 4th District Rep. Angelina “Helen” Tan, who authored the bill, believes that the bill would help the country’s public health system be more resilient, especially in times of health emergencies such as the coronavirus disease (Covid-19).
“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,” she said.
Tan pointed out pandemic has caught the country and the world “flat footed” as it affected global and local production and distribution of pharmaceuticals and medical devices and the supply of raw materials, active pharmaceutical ingredients, excipients, packaging materials, including finished medical products needed to combat the pandemic and other diseases of public health.
The lawmaker reminded that some countries imposed limits on export of medicines and medical supplies/equipment such as facemasks, shields, and ventilators to mitigate critical shortages in their countries that have likewise aggravated the situation. She added that the European Union also imposed a block-wide export ban on some medical protective equipment to keep adequate supplies within the region in the face of scarcity in supply amid the increasing demand.
Tan further stressed that the country needs to prepare for infectious disease control, noting that the Philippines, due to its location, is one of the most natural-disaster prone countries in the world.
“Given this situation, the country’s preparedness in times of public health emergencies is significantly necessary such as during pandemics and natural disasters.”
The bill will create the Health Procurement and Stockpiling Bureau (HPSB) that will be tasked to stockpile, conserve, and facilitate the release of adequate amounts of potentially life-saving pharmaceuticals, vaccines, devices, and materials in times of public health emergencies.
The HPSB will be established under the Department of Health (DoH) and would subsume the existing Procurement Service and the Supply Chain Management Service to serve as the principal agency mandated to “undertake a transparent, fair, proactive, and innovative procurement service for the DoH.”
Other critical functions of the HPSB include the “identification of 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; supplementation of 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 ensuring the rotation, replenishment, and freshness of stocks and that there exists at all times steady, available and adequate supply of drugs and medicines, vaccines, devices, and materials, which are essential in responding to public health emergencies”.
Under the bill, the bureau would 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”.