MANILA — The Department of Health (DOH) said on Friday that starting January 2016, patients suffering from hypertension and diabetic problems nationwide may avail of free maintenance medicines for their illnesses from the DOH regional rural health units (RHUs).

In a press briefing held on Dec. 11 at the DOH Media Relations Unit in Tayuman St., Sta. Cruz, Manila, DOH Secretary Janette L. Garin said that essential medicines needed for control of hypertension and diabetes can be received by people suffering from such illnesses upon registering with the DOH Hypertension and Diabetes Club in the RHU of Regional Offices where they belong.

According to Secretary Garin, the RHU in the regional offices of the DOH will furnish the list of the patients that will be joining the club to the Central Office so that a data base can be formed.

“This intervention will help facilitate risk assessment of community members and ensure regular follow-up of diagnosed hypertensive and diabetic patients… Patients needing them that will be in our data base will be receiving the medicines starting January 2016,” she said.

To be part of the DOH Hypertension and Diabetes Club, a patient needs to consult the nearest health center or primary health care facility to undergo assessment, screening and management.

Initially, the program was launched in Pampanga last Dec. 9, wherein participants with hypertension and diabetes health problems were registered.

The rural Barangay Health Workers (BHWs) will be equipped by the DOH with blood pressure apparatus and glucometer sets so that they can assist in measuring blood pressure and sugar level of the patients as they penetrate the grassroots.

Rural health physicians, on the other hand, will be the ones who will finally determine if the patients will be classified as hypertensive and diabetic upon examinations and assessments.

Once the patients are diagnosed by the physicians to be hypertensive and diabetic, they can be recommended as qualified members that can join in the club and avail of the benefits of receiving the drugs that will provided by DOH.

Through the program, there will be four drugs that will be provided by DOH.

For hypertension, DOH will be providing Losartan, Amlodipine and Metroprolol, while for diabetes, the agency will be providing Metformin.

As members, the patients will be included in the activities that promote healthy lifestyle so that their blood pressure and sugar level can be controlled at the same time.

The DOH wants to ensure that members of the club will be pro-active in ensuring prevention of complication of their illnesses.

Maintenance medicines are essential for patients because discontinuing of the said maintenance medicines can aggravate their condition.

The program will be initially available among the poor sectors of the community and seeking preventive check-up in the RHUs.

However, patients seeking consultation in private health facilities who have various maintenance medicines and having a lot of out-of-pocket expenditures may also join the club and avail also of free maintenance medicines.

Very soon, poorest patients identified to be needing insulin medicine for their diabetic condition will also be given access.

The program is part of the DOH effort in upgrading facilities and services nationwide in line with the goal of bringing the Universal Health Care Program or “Kalusugang Pangkalahatan” Health Agenda of the Aquino Administration to the Filipino people.

At present, the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) does not cover the provision of free maintenance medicines among patients with hypertension and diabetes.

With this program that will be in place next year, more patients suffering from chronic illness conditions are expected to benefit as they will not only have regular medicines but at the same time can also be influenced to do their part in maintaining healthy lifestyle or preventing their conditions to aggravate.

Diabetes and hypertension are also classified as chronic diseases.

According to Secretary Garin, unhealthy habits such as smoking, physical inactivity, alcohol abuse, and unhealthy diet can lead to hypertension and diabetes.

“In order to fight it, it is important to practice healthy lifestyle choices early,” she said.

She stressed that early detection and care using cost-effective and sustainable health care interventions that are integrated in primary health care facilities are essential. Leilani Junio/PNA