Drugstores vigilant against selling of fake drugs, but ?

Members of the association, Carreon said, have received training support on customer service earlier this year and will attend a seminar on counterfeit drugs in the second part.

Carreon, who is from Allied Medical Supplies Company (AMESCO), said that small drugstores mostly comprise the non-DSAP members in Davao, especially those in the suburban areas. She said the big drugstores in Davao City are "practically all members of DSAP."

Arnold Alendada, a BFAS regulation officer in Southern Mindanao, said they monitor all registered drugstores in the region as part of routine measures to combat fake medicines. This was confirmed by a pharmacist of a non-DSAP member drugstore operating in a mall.

But counterfeit drugs might enter the market because some drugstores buy from "unauthorized distributors" of medical supplies, Carreon said.

According to the BFAD website, under Republic Act No. 8203, The Special Law on Counterfeit Drugs, the parties that could be liable include the manufacturer, exporter or importer of the counterfeit drugs and their agents, seller, distributor, trafficker, broker or donor and their agents, and the possessor of counterfeit drugs.

The manager, operator or lessee of the laboratory or laboratory facilities used in the manufacture of counterfeit drugs are also liable. So are the owner, proprietor, administrator or manager of the drugstore, hospital pharmacy or dispensary, laboratory or other outlets or premises where the counterfeit drug is found.

Even the registered pharmacist of the outlet where the counterfeit drug is sold or found, is not spared. If proven guilty, he might lose his license with the Professional Regulatory Commission (PRC).

Once proven that the drugs examined were fake, violators would be meted out penalties like permanent closure of the establishment concerned, revocation of business license, and a fine of not less than P100,000 but not more than P500,000.

But the proliferation of counterfeit drugs, Carreon said, is just one of many issues confronting Filipino drug consumers.

Medicines in the Philippines, Carreon said, are very expensive because of the drug patenting system, which allow a few players to monopolize manufacture and distribution of drugs. She cited as examples a medicine for hypertension and an antibiotic drug produced by a big multinational company. Because of the patent, the medicines are sold in the market at exorbitant prices.

But she stressed that with the Republic Act 6675, or the Generics Act of 1988, and the Parallel Drug Importation Program, the issue on expensive drugs is gradually being addressed. RA 6675 allows the production of generic drugs using the same active ingredients and processes as the ones used in branded drugs.

"But there is still a need to educate the public more about the Generics Law," Carreon said.

She said others still stick to the branded medicines for fear of wasting money in generic medicines.