Gov't sets cap on purchase of paracetamol, flu meds

Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 11 2022 01:20 PM | Updated as of Jan 11 2022 02:15 PM

A drugstore in Manila puts up a list of unavailable over-the-counter medicines on Jan. 4, 2022 as supplies run short with people stacking up on common medicines for fever, cough and colds associated with COVID-19 sickness. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News
A drugstore in Manila puts up a list of unavailable over-the-counter medicines on Jan. 4, 2022 as supplies run short with people stacking up on common medicines for fever, cough and colds associated with COVID-19 sickness. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA — The government has limited the purchase of paracetamol and some flu medicines, which are running short in some drugstores, Malacañang said on Tuesday. 

The trade and health departments released a joint memorandum setting a purchase limit on paracetamol and carbocisteine, among others, said Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles. 

Under the memorandum, he said an individual can only buy 20 tablets of 500-mg paracetamol, while a household can purchase 60. 

A slideshow flashed by Nograles also showed the purchase of 500-mg carbocisteine is limited to 20 capsules per person and 60 per household. 

Gov't limits purchase of paracetamol, flu meds 1
Gov't limits purchase of paracetamol, flu meds 2

This table summarizes the quantity of some over-the-counter drugs that the public can purchase. Screenshot from DTI, DOH joint memorandum circular

This table summarizes the quantity of some over-the-counter drugs that the public can purchase. Screenshot from DTI, DOH joint memorandum circular

"Nakasaad din sa joint memorandum na ito na ipinagbabawal ang online selling ng mga nasabing gamot, unless otherwise permitted by the FDA," Nograles said in a press briefing. 

(This joint memorandum also states that the online selling of these medicines is prohibited, unless otherwise permitted by the FDA.) 

Carbocisteine is a mucolytic that helps one cough up phlegm, while paracetamol is used to treat body aches and fever. 

The purchase limit aims to “prevent artificial shortage and price escalation of OTC (over-the-counter) flu medicines, and strictly ensure the availability of the same until such time that their supplies become stable,” reads the memorandum. 

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Video courtesy of PTV

"Overwhelming demand" for paracetamol and some over-the-counter drugs around the end of December led to a “temporary stockout” in some pharmacies, the trade department earlier said. 

“It is actually a problem of stockout. Hindi po siya (it is not a) supply problem,” Trade Assistant Secretary Ann Claire Cabochan said on Monday, adding that one local manufacturer can produce nearly 60 million tablets in a month. 

Major pharmacies started replenishing their inventories on Jan. 5, she said. 

“We were anticipating na over the weekend ay mag-normalize na yong situation kasi makakadating na ng distribution channels, iyong mga major drugstores po natin,” Cabochan said in a televised public briefing. 

(We were anticipating that over the weekend, the situation would normalize because the drug would reach distribution channels, our major drugstores.) 

The purchase cap on these drugs came as the Philippines reported record-high new COVID-19 infections. 

The health department logged 33,169 new coronavirus infections on Monday, bringing the overall tally close to 3 million as the Omicron variant takes its toll, with the overpopulated capital Manila and surrounding provinces worst hit. 

The healthcare system is at risk of being overwhelmed, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire told ANC news channel, calling on symptomatic people to immediately isolate and get tested.

— With a report from Reuters