Press Release
January 18, 2016

Senate acts to establish plan of action to eliminate tuberculosis as public health problem

The Senate today approved on 3rd and final reading a bill which seeks to establish a comprehensive plan to eliminate tuberculosis (TB) as a public health problem in the country.

Sen. Teofisto Guingona III, author and sponsor of Senate Bill No. 2653, also known as the Comprehensive Tuberculosis Elimination Plan Act, said that the bill will increase state investments for its prevention, treatment and control, along with the adoption of a multi sectoral approach in responding to the disease.

Senate President Franklin M. Drilon said that the bill's passage is in response to the emerging threats brought by the TB, which remains one of the world's deadliest communicable diseases.

"It is alarming and unacceptable that about 712 Filipinos are still getting afflicted with tuberculosis everyday, despite it being a preventable and treatable disease. This bill will lead us towards a comprehensive plan of action involving TB prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and care and support to TB patients and their families,' Drilon said.

Guingona added the death toll among Filipinos from the disease remains unacceptably high," as Department of Health reports over 43,000 new TB cases every year with 27,000 Filipinos dying of the disease annually.

Once the bill is enacted into law, Guingona said that regional health centers would be able to provide free laboratory services to patients nationwide and ensure that there would be adequate supply of free drugs, especially during and after natural and man-made disasters.

The health department will also develop appropriate technologies to diagnose and treat the disease as well as strengthen linkages with local and international organizations for possible partnerships in education, advocacy, research and funding assistance, according to Guigona.

"Another important provision of the bill is the regulation on the sale and use of TB drugs wherein the Food and Drugs Administration will be tasked to strengthen its implementation of 'No Prescription, No Anti-TB Drugs' to ensure the quality of TB drugs distributed in the market," Guingona said.

Under the bill, he said the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) would also be required to expand its benefit package for TB patients to include not only new cases but failure cases, relapse cases and return-after default cases.

Tuberculosis is a bacterial infection that can spread through the lymph nodes and bloodstream to any organ in the body. It is often found in the lungs. Symptoms include fever, colorless urine, cough resulting in a thick sputa and loss of thirst and appetite.

According to a report from the World Health Organization, people with TB can infect up to 10 to 15 other people through close contact over the course of a year. Without proper treatment up to two thirds of people ill with tuberculosis will die. (Pilar S. Macrohon)

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