COA: ₱18-B worth of undistributed medicine stocked in DOH warehouses

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 25) — The Commission on Audit (COA) has found that the Department of Health (DOH) has over ₱18 billion worth of drugs and medicine lying idle in their warehouses.

This was an increase of around ₱2.4 billion from 2017, when the DOH had over ₱16 billion worth of drugs and medicine on hand for distribution to public hospitals.

“The … constantly increasing balance of drugs and medicines for distribution on the DOH warehouses precluded the immediate provision of quality health service to the intended beneficiaries of the different DOH health programs and is also reflective of ineffective inventory management of the [DOH,]” the COA said in its annual audit report.

The state audit agency said the DOH defied the World Health Organization, which recommended that storage level should be based on an average time of distribution of six to nine months.

However, the COA found out that some of the drugs that have not yet been distributed have remained in the DOH’s warehouses for up to 51 months.

It also called out the DOH for continuing to buy drugs and medicine while failing to address overstocking.

The COA also cast doubt on the completeness of the DOH’s reporting of the remaining drugs it has on hand for distribution, as a department order allows it to declare and admit only a portion of this.

The state audit firm said overstocking could have been caused by the lack of reconciliation of inventory records between the DOH’s accounting and logistics divisions, and the lack of records of the transfer and distribution of goods.

It added that it may have also been caused by the failure to comply with the two-month inventory requirements, the slow approval by the Food and Drug Administration, poor procurement planning and inventory management, and the acceptance of drugs and medicines which are not in accordance with the standard requirements on shelf life.

The COA warned that if “ineffective and poor” procurement planning and inventory management go unchecked, these can have “chilling effects” on the implementation of the Universal health Care law.

Expired drugs

The COA also found that around ₱367 million worth of drugs and medicine were almost expired.

Over ₱19 million worth of nearly expired drugs, medicine, and medical and dental supplies were still delivered to 17 health facilities around the country, including the National Center for Mental Health and Tondo Medical Center.

Around ₱30 million of drugs and medicine delivered to health facilities were already expired resulting in the waste of government funds.

“Existence of expired and neary expiry inventory items does not only deprive the marginalized people to avail of the intended or needed benefits to be provided but may also further result to wastage of the meager funds of the government,” the COA said.

State auditors said the DOH should be distributing drugs at least one year before their expiry dates, in accordance with an administrative order by the agency.

The Health department, responding to the audit report, said they have taken note of the observations and would take the necessary action on them.