Move to forbid small stores from selling medicines ‘unnecessary’

By Joseph B.A. Marzan

The president of the League of Municipalities of the Philippines (LMP)-Iloilo Chapter on Tuesday said the proposal of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) to local government units (LGUs) to limit the sale of medicines in “sari-sari” stores is still unnecessary at this time.

LMP-Iloilo President and San Enrique town Mayor Trixie Fernandez told Aksyon Radyo Iloilo on Tuesday that Iloilo province LGUs had not reported incidents of health hazards from counterfeit OTCs bought from sari-sari stores.

Fernandez also cited the long-time practice of small stores being allowed to sell medicines in saying that consideration must be given at this time.

The mayor suggested that medicines for simpler or smaller bodily pains should be allowed, especially to areas which are not easily accessible by drug stores.

She likewise suggested that if the sale of medicines were to be limited to drug stores, barangay health centers should be allowed to purchase and distribute the same to the public.

“Our smaller stores, even with simple paracetamol for headaches, are selling and are allowed to sell [medicines], and so far, there has been no feedback [here] of illnesses because of being deceived by stores. There were no reports,” she said.

“In farther areas and in remote islands, access to medicines is difficult even for simple headaches and teeth pain. Maybe we can allow some medicines. Antibiotics are a different kind of thing which need guidance and limitation, but paracetamol and [mefenamic] acid, there must be slight consideration for access by the public.”

DILG Secretary Eduardo Año last week urged LGUs to pass ordinances banning the sale of any kind of medicine in sari-sari or sundry stores.

Año also said that he had directed the Philippine National Police to immediately arrest violators without proper license or authority to sell medicines.

The Interior chief’s remark followed the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) report that between Jan. 13 to Feb. 11, there have been 185 reports of sari-sari stores illegally selling medicines.

The FDA report confirmed 78 confirmed violators, with 9 selling counterfeit drugs including coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) medicines.

Republic Act No. 10918 (Philippine Pharmacy Act) requires 4th, 5th, and 6th class municipalities to have a duly registered and licensed pharmacist for the procurement, distribution, dispensing, and storage of pharmaceutical products.

Section 45(d) of the said law punishes the “dispensing or allowing the dispensing or offering for sale of prescription drugs or pharmaceutical products in a place not licensed by the FDA as a pharmaceutical outlet” with a fine ranging from P250,000 to P500,000 or imprisonment between 1 to 6 years.