FREE MEDICINES. Supplies of medicine inside the "Botika ng Bayan" (BNB) in Maasin City in Southern Leyte. The Department of Health on Friday (Nov. 27, 2020) said nine new BNBs were opened in Eastern Visayas this week. (Photo courtesy of Maasin city government)

TACLOBAN CITY – Access to free and safe medicines are now within the reach of indigents in nine towns and cities in Eastern Visayas, with the opening of “Botika ng Bayan” (BNB) this week.

In partnership with the Department of Health (DOH), Catbalogan City and Daram town both in Samar, Arteche in Eastern Samar, and San Antonio in Northern Samar have all officially launched its BNB on Wednesday, while Maasin City and the towns of San Francisco and Hinundayan all in Southern Leyte, and MacArthur and Hilongos, both in Leyte, on Friday.

Angelica Marie Bolos, DOH Eastern Visayas national drug compliance policy officer, said the community-based health care program has been established to provide free medicines to poor patients, targeting rural health units as BNB outlets and the barangay health stations as satellite outlets.

These drug outlets have complied with the standards on Pharmaceutical Supply Chain Management and Good Distribution and Storage Practices of the Food and Drug Administration to ensure the safety and quality of medicines.

“In here, there should be an integrated management of medicines whether procured by the local government unit or additional supplies or augmentation from the DOH,” Bolos said in an interview.

DOH Eastern Visayas head Exuperia Sabalberino said the revival of the program is part of President Rodrigo Duterte’s thrust to provide quality and accessible health care services to all Filipinos.

The BNB, a project of the Arroyo Administration in 2004, was stopped seven years later due to lack of supervising pharmacists and an effective supply chain that could assure the constant availability of quality-generic medicines.

“Due to existing challenges on the access to medicines, the government revitalized this program and we are thankful to have stakeholders who are willing to engage in all our advocacies. It has become more valuable especially that we are still in this pandemic, a difficult situation that compromises health,” Sabalberino said in a statement.

The region now has 11 BNBs, with two others in Baybay City in Leyte and Limasawa Island in Southern Leyte, launched in 2018 and 2019, respectively. (PNA)