MANILA -- The Department of Health (DOH) is currently drawing up an executive order that would make it the sole provider of anti-tuberculosis medicine so it could ascertain the actual number of Filipinos suffering from TB and prevent resistance to anti-TB drugs.

“That is a bold step in terms of how we handle tuberculosis in this country. We will eliminate commercial sources of anti-TB drugs,” Health Secretary Dr. Paulyn Ubial told reporters during a media briefing in Quezon City Thursday.

Ubial observed that many TB patients have the tendency to stop their medication once they could no longer afford to purchase the costly anti-TB drugs available at the private sector. Failing to complete treatment could make them resistant to these drugs.

A six- to nine-month course of anti-TB drugs could cost PHP3,000 to PHP4,000.

She said offering the drugs solely at the community health centers -- for free -- would ensure that TB patients get the full treatment, preventing the risk that they would develop a resistance to the medicine, adding that this would also enable the DOH to determine the number of TB patients in the country.

Ubial said the same strategy has enabled the department to manage leprosy.

''With the robust intervention that this administration is determined to implement, I am confident that our nation will be able to turn around the findings of a recent survey on TB,” she said, referring to the 2016 National Tuberculosis Prevalence Survey that has put the number of new TB cases at 554 per 100,000 people, way above the World Health Organization’s estimate of 322 per 100,000 in 2015. 

This means that some 1 million Filipinos are infected with TB and many of them are unaware of their health condition, said the health chief.

Ubial said she will present the executive order to President Rodrigo Duterte for signing next month. (PNA)