Mental Health Act moves forward

The House of Representatives’ approval of the Comprehensive Mental Health Act comes at a most opportune time and its being signed into law will definitely be a big boost to the thousands of Filipinos grappling with mental health issues.

"After being one of the few countries left without a mental health policy, the country is now one step closer to implementing a policy that will respond to the mental health needs of Filipinos," said Senator Risa Hontiveros, who stood as sponsor of the Senate version of the bill.

If enacted into law, an integration of the mental healthcare into the general health delivery system is to be expected. This will benefit the patients as well as the other stakeholders involved in the delivery of care for patients with mental health problems.

Entitlement to receiving evidence-based treatments will be granted to patients, and to practice their rights on an equal and non-discriminatory basis.

Dengvaxia’s impending danger

In 29 November this year, Dengvaxia manufacturer, Sanofi Pasteur, asked health authorities in countries where the dengue vaccine was approved to update the vaccine’s information provided to physicians and patients.

According to a statement by the pharmaceutical giant published 29 November 2017, a new analysis of long-term clinical trial data indicated differences in vaccine performance based on prior dengue infection.

“Based on up to six years of clinical data, the new analysis evaluated long-term safety and efficacy of Dengvaxia in people who had been infected with dengue prior to vaccination and those who had not. The analysis confirmed that Dengvaxia provides persistent protective benefit against dengue fever in those who had prior infection,” Sanofi’s statement read.

This incident has been dubbed as one of the biggest healthcare fiascos in the country.

Fight against HIV/AIDS continues

“The Philippines has become the country with the fastest growing HIV epidemic in Asia and the Pacific,” declared former health secretary, Dr Paulyn Ubial in August this year. In fact, according to the latest update from the Department of Health (DOH), 31 new cases of HIV are being recorded in the country every day.

DOH’s Epidemiological Bureau has predicted the number of HIV-infected individuals in the Philippines to jump to 142,000 in 2022, or worse, 313,000 by the year 2030.

This sounded the alarm bells at the House of Representatives, where congressmen unanimously voted to revise the decades-old Philippine AIDS Prevention and Control Act of through House Bill 6617 or the Philippine HIV and AIDS Policy Act.

Ubial out as DOH Chief

Dr Paulyn Ubial’s appointment as the Secretary of the DOH last year was lauded by critics. Given her proven track record of advocating for public health in the country, various health groups were positive that Ubial’s leadership may bring to the health department. However, in October this year, the powerful Congressional Commission on Appointments withheld its consent regarding Ubial’s confirmation as the department’s secretary.

Appointed in her stead was Dr Francisco Duque, who is returning for a second term as the DOH secretary. He served in the same capacity for five years under the Arroyo administration. MIMS

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Dengue vaccine, drugs, and doctor distrust: When physicians doubt the medicine