Prescription drugs may scare ‘seniors’

By Herbert Vego

RECENTLY, my doctor prescribed a medicine for cardiomegaly or enlarged heart. Was I supposed to be appeased by her assurance that it was “slight” and I could recover?

Oh no! If you are one of us senior citizens, you would not always welcome the discount privilege on expensive prescription drugs. An old man would rather splurge on nutritious foods in order to enjoy the rest of his life.

But do we senior citizens have a better choice whenever the need to be dependent on “maintenance” arises?  For the poor retirees or those with no more income to lean on, this means relying on children, grandchildren or charitable institutions.

Some people wrongly think we seniors are luckier because, with a doctor’s prescription, we are entitled to a 20 percent discount on medicine, plus value-added tax (VAT) exemption. That’s almost 30 percent off the original price.

But in the last 13 years since I turned 60, I have had second thoughts as to whether the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.

I would rather be free from diseases in order to realign the medicine budget to food, travel and other pleasurable treats.

Secondly, it’s not really true that we seniors get special treatment in the hospitals and drugstores which tend to squeeze more money from us for longer days of confinement and stronger antibiotics. It is scary that “antibiotic” literally means “against life”.

Under the law (RA 9247), in addition to drug discounts, we are supposed to be entitled to free medical, dental, diagnostic and laboratory services in all government facilities. But these free services are not always available.

And since it’s never comfortable waiting within the long line of patients begging for attention in government facilities, the moneyed senior citizens tend to go to private clinics, laboratories and hospitals.

It is ironic that we senior citizens or our authorized representatives find it harder than young customers when queuing in any branch of the reputedly biggest pharmaceutical chain.

We need longer time to complete a transaction because the only teller in charge has to make sure we present an ID from the Office of Senior Citizens Affairs (OSCA), a senior citizens’ booklet, and a doctor’s prescription. None of any of them means no discount.

Sad to say, unfortunately, consulting with a private doctor to be prescribed a drug for flu or cough could be more expensive than the medicine itself. Hooray to over-the-counter alternatives that need no doctor’s prescription! Bahala na si Bathala.

There are small drugstores that circumvent the law by tagging higher prices on medicines sold to senior citizens so that, when discounted, they don’t reflect the true discount.  But their excuse for that could also be true: Unlike their bigger competitors who place bigger orders, they buy the same products in smaller volume from the same suppliers at higher wholesale prices.

There are bigger pharmacies, however, that do not sell the cheaper generic formulas intentionally because they earn more from pushing the more expensive branded ones.

They are also good at finding “defects”. I remember the sales lady who would not honor my senior citizen’s ID because my doctor had written only the brand name, omitting its generic name, on the prescription sheet.

“Look,” I argued, trembling, while showing her my OSCA booklet detailing my past purchases of the same drug. “I could collapse and die of high blood pressure arguing with you. It’s clear what the doctor prescribed.”

Scared, she handed me the drug.



“I think there are only very few cities in the Philippines that could really proudly say that they have very rich heritage, very rich culture that is actually seen from the edifices, from the monuments around the city that are testaments that the city has very rich culture and heritage.”

Speaking was MORE Power President Roel Z. Castro, explaining why the company was groundbreaking its ₱96.4 million underground distribution system (UDS), which would cover 1.6-kilometer of J. M. Basa St., between the corners of Burgos and Arroyo streets, doable within eight months.

Mayor Jerry Treñas, for his part, lauded the project aimed at keeping up with the city’s own modernization program.

“The safety of our citizens is of paramount importance, and this project aligns with our commitment to ensuring a secure environment for all,” he said.

Underground systems are protected from strong winds and falling trees during inclement weather. They help in fire prevention. They also look better aesthetically.

From what I read, countries with underground power lines, notably Germany which is 80% undergrounded, do not experience the same risk of power outages and electricity-related injuries and death due to power line dangers that countries with above-ground power lines do.

As to whether undergrounding would eventually cover the entire power-distribution network – which is said to cost three times more expensive than above-ground — it would probably depend on the economies of scale, which would depend on volume of business outpacing the cost of service.

Incidentally, from a kick-off customer base of 63,000 in 2020, MORE Power has now exceeded 90,000 within three years.

According to Engr. Bernard Bailey Del Castillo, MORE Power’s deputy head of network operations, the undergrounding project would also involve the participation of two telecommunication companies, namely Converge and Globe. PLDT and the rest, however, will just “reroute” their cables.

It remains to be seen how the mayor and the Iloilo City Council would react. One recalls that it was on July 27, 2022 yet when the council approved Regulation Ordinance No. 2023-006 enjoining all members of the Public Utilities Group of Iloilo (PUGI) to get rid of the “spaghetti electric wires” in the Calle Real area.

Huwag lang ang spaghetti mismo, please.