Press Release
February 19, 2015



Senator Teofisto "TG" Guingona III, Chair of the Senate Committee on Health and Demography, has filed Senate Bill No. 2653 calling for a Comprehensive Plan of Action to finally eliminate tuberculosis in the Philippines as a major public health problem.

Sen. Guingona said that he filed the bill since tuberculosis remains one of the world's deadliest communicable diseases. In 2013, an estimated 9 million people developed TB and 1.5 million died from the disease, 360,000 of whom were HIV-positive.

"TB is slowly declining each year and it is estimated that 37 million lives were saved between 2000 and 2013 through effective diagnosis and treatment. However, given that most deaths from TB are preventable, the death toll from the disease is still unacceptably high and efforts to combat it must be accelerated if 2015 global targets, set within the context of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), are to be met," he said.

However, Sen. Guingona noted that even with the high success rate of treatment of new TB cases, the Philippines ranked second in Asia when it came to the prevalence of TB per 100,000 population in 2012.

In the Philippines, TB is the sixth leading cause of death and illness, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). In 2011, WHO estimates there are 260,000 incident cases in the country, and 28,000 die in a year. TB prevalence is high among the high risk groups such as the elderly, urban poor, smokers and those with compromised immune systems such as people living with HIV, malnutrition and diabetes.

Under SBN 2653, the bill proposes for the strengthening of the Regional Centers of Health Development to provide health services to eliminate TB. These health services are expected to provide:

a) Free laboratory services through the Department of Health retained hospitals b) Reliable supply of drugs to patients for free by ensuring that local health centers, through coordination with local government units (LGUs) concerned, have sufficient supply of medicines for the communities they serve c) Public information and educational programs to train the public on basic ways and means to prevent the spread of TB d) Training to enhance the capability of health providers in both public and private hospitals e) Proper monitoring of TB cases in the country; and f) Monitoring services should be extended as far as practicable, at the lowest level health unit.

The bill also includes that Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (Philhealth) should expand its beneft package for TB patients to include new, relapse and return-after-default cases, and extension of treatment.

"The PhilHealth shall enhance its present outpatient Directly Observed Treatment Short Course (DOTS) package to make it more responsive to patients' needs. It shall likewise increase the number of accredited DOTS facilities to widen target beneficiaries who may avail of reimbursements," the bill stated.

The bill also proposes to regulate the sale and use of TB drugs where in the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) should strengthen its implemention of the "No Prescription, No Anti-TB Drugs" to regulate the sale and use of anti-TB drugs in the market. This move will ensure the quality of TB drugs being distributed in the market.

"In response to the emerging threats brought about the by TB disease, this bill was crafted to provide for the establishment of a Comprehensive Philippine Plan of Action to Eliminate Tuberculosis which shall consist, among others, of the country's targets and strategies in addressing the disease; prevention, diagnosis, treatment, care and support, and other components of the country's response; and development and application of appropriate technologies to diagnose and treat the disease among many other important factors," Sen. Guingona said.

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