P8-B loss yearly: 'Tuberculosis a daily massacre' – Recto
MANILA, Philippines – Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto called on the national government to plow back a portion of its budget to fight tuberculosis, which is "our country’s number 8 top killer."
On Monday, March 23, which was also World TB Day, Recto said the disease "kills 75 a day, more than the 67 policemen, rebels and civilians who died in the Mamasapano tragedy."
Tuberculosis "is a massacre which happens daily," he said.
Despite some victories in achieving an 88% cure rate for tuberculosis, Recto said there are still challenges that need to be faced, such as the high prevalence of the disease and the continuing recurrence of the TB year after year.
"First, there is the challenge of high TB prevalence rate. 438,000 of our people have it, according to the latest World Health Organization (WHO) data. Globally, we’re 9th in the WHO watch-list of 22 high-burdened countries which constitute 80% of all TB cases worldwide," Recto explained.
Recto added, "even if we cure more people, more new cases crop up every year. In 2013, 229,918, new cases were reported." He also noted that 26 new TB patients occur every hour.
Anti-TB program under-funded
According to the WHO assessment of the country's "financing [of] TB control," 48% of the amount needed by the annual national anti-TB program remains unfunded.
Since the cost of a cure ranges from P8,500 to P10,000, or potentially up to P250,000 for a multidrug resistant TB – an amoun that "cannot wholly be an out-of the-pocket expense of a poor patient" – Recto said "a bigger government equity in shouldering the cost" becomes necessary.
The national government budget to fight TB was P1.1 billion in 2014. This is augmented by about the same amount from official development aid.
Recto has filed a proposed Alis TB Act, which seeks to guarantee funding sources for the Philippines' TB eradication drive. The bill includes expanded PhilHealth coverage of TB cases to include the segment of the population without PhilHealth insurance.
He added the government can defray part of the expense by increasing its subsidy to PhilHealth via national budget allocations.
According to Recto, boosting the TB control fund is a doable expense. He pointed out that the country underspent by P302.7 billion, and if even 1% of that – P3 billion – would help immensely.
“Remember, the country is losing approximately P8 billion annually from sickness and deaths due to TB. So this spending has a big socio-economic ROI (return of investment),” he added.
Meanwhile, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) honored the Philippines’ health department for its “outstanding work in the fight against TB.”
At a ceremony in Batangas City on Monday, Health Secretary Janette Garin accepted the TB Champion award from USAID Philippines’ mission director Gloria Steele. Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Cuisia Jr will accept the same award on behalf of the Department of Health (DOH) at a ceremony in Washington, DC, on Tuesday Manila time.
“The United States is a proud member of the global partnership to eliminate this disease, improving access to life-saving drugs and giving people the chance to live healthy, productive lives,” Steele said.
According to USAID, the DOH’s efforts enabled the Philippines to achieve 3 years ahead of the 2015 deadline the Millennium Development Goal targets for reducing by half TB prevalence and mortality rates since 1990.
The Philippines has “scaled up quality treatment of multidrug-resistant TB, and expanded coverage and treatment of adults and children suffering from TB,” the development agency said. – Rappler.com