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The Department of Health Relaunches the Botika ng Barangay

As part of the Duterte Administration’s thrust to provide quality, affordable and accessible healthcare services for Filipinos, the Department of Health (DOH) announced the revival of the Botika ng Bayan (BNB) Program during the launching of its first pilot site in San Mariano, Isabela last July 13 (Friday).

The launching was marked by the signing of the Memorandum of Agreement for joint implementation between the DOH and local officials, including Suquian District Representative Ana Cristina S. Go, Vice Mayor Dean Anthony G. Domalanta and Municipal Health Officer Dr. Almira L. Reyes. The DOH was represented by Undersecretary Enrique Domingo and Region II Director Rio Magpantay.

The Botika ng Bayan program will provide access to free essential medicines for common diseases in the community targeting indigents and the marginalized sectors of the population. The program aims to cover all 2,600 rural health units and other government centers to have Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-licensed BnB outlets that will provide quality outpatient pharmacy services by 2022.

“The DOH is relaunching anew the BnB program in partnership with our local government units (LGUs) to realize President Duterte’s vision that no Filipino should go home without free access to basic medicines when needed and that quality essential medicines should be accessible and affordable for all Filipinos,” said Undersecretary Enrique Domingo.

The BNB, a flagship program of the previous Arroyo Administration, was temporarily stopped by the DOH in 2011 to address issues on the lack of supervising pharmacists and an effective supply chain that could assure the constant availability of quality generic medicines in some 16,000 government-run community pharmacists established between 2001 to 2010.

“While the DoH earlier issued a moratorium on the establishment of more BnBs, the program served its purpose of spurring generic competition and providing more affordable access to medicines for our citizens. The BNB became a viable business model for generic pharmacies now spread out across the country bringing us toward the vision of more affordable medicines down to our villages,” revealed Undersecretary Domingo.

The DOH announced service enhancements to the BNB program such as more essential medicines available for common diseases in the community, like infections, skin ailments, asthma and chronic non-communicable diseases. The BNB medicines consist of antibiotics, topical ointments, anti-thrombotic, anti-inflammatory, vitamins, antacids and other essential drugs for asthma, hypertension, diabetes and dyslipidemia.

Patient education and counseling will also be provided by licensed pharmacists and trained pharmacy assistants to be hired by the DOH and some LGUs with existing human resources.

“More importantly, the medicines will be dispensed to patients for free to ensure no out-of-pocket expense for indigents as directed by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte,” the health undersecretary said.

The Botika ng Barangay previously sold low-priced generic home remedies, over-the-counter (OTC) medicines and two prescription antibiotics drugs (i.e. Amoxicillin and Cotrimoxazole) at prices at least 60% cheaper than those commercially available.

Under the new BNB program, soldiers and policemen and their families are also included as beneficiaries in partnership with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP).

“The DOH recognizes the service and heroism of our armed personnel in ensuring the security of our country, hence the BNB program was revitalized with a new variant that shall provide free access to essential medicines for them, the Botika ng Bayani outlets,” he also said.

"We emphasize our important partnership with the LGUs, recognizing that the task of providing quality, affordable and accessible health care services to Filipinos should be coordinated using the whole of government approach," Undersecretary Domingo concluded.