P2.2B drugs in DOH inventory expired, overstocked, says COA

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    THE Department of Health (DOH) has P2.2 billion worth of drugs, medicines and other supplies in its inventory that are either expired, nearly expired or overstocked and slow-moving, the Commission on Audit (COA) revealed in its 2019 report released yesterday.

    Government auditors said their review of the inventory of the DOH, Centers of Health Development (CHDs), and state-owned hospitals as of December 31, 2019 showed expiring medicines accounted for P29.95 million; overstock/slow-moving items at P1.144 billion; and nearly expired drugs at P1.024 billion.

    They attributed the problem to “poor procurement planning, inefficient and uncoordinated transfer or distribution, and lack of monitoring and proper storage.”

    “The occurrence of these expired, overstocked, and nearly expired inventory items is a manifestation of an excessive expenditure since items were procured more than what is needed,” the audit team said.

    “The existence of these conditions affects the curative efficacy of drugs and medicines and (results in) wastage of government funds, thus, failing to deliver quality health care services,” it added.

    Auditors recommended that procurement contracts be reviewed to see if expired medicines may be returned and replaced by suppliers.

    The COA also reminded the DOH to exercise prudence in spending government funds by ensuring that procurement is limited only to supplies that are urgent and immediately needed for the current year.

    For expiring medicines, the COA proposed that distribution to intended beneficiaries be ramped up to minimize wastage, including CHDs and state hospitals.

    It likewise urged the DOH to undertake a reevaluation of existing internal procedures on custodianship, issuance and stock level monitoring to prevent recurrence of expiring bulk purchases.

    In its comments, the DOH management said the expired or nearly expired supplies were purchased back in 2017 and 2018 and those that are still usable have been distributed early this year.

    It also cited a problem in the courier/delivery contract of the DOH-Supply Chain and Management Office (SCMO) which caused a backlog in the distribution.

    This was specifically raised in the delivery of “nutrition commodities” which were received in 2017 and 2018.

    It said without an existing courier, Luzon-based CHDs were asked to send their own transport to pick up their allocations.

    However, this system was not possible for CHDs in the Visayas and Mindanao although other organizations like the UNICEF, World Food Programme and Nutrition International were able to help ferry truckloads of supplies to their project areas.

    For Mindanao provinces and Palawan, the SCMO tapped the Pilipinas Shell Foundation, the Philippine Marines and the Philippine Coastguard particularly for end-users in Sulu, Tawi-tawi, and Zamboanga Peninsula.

    The DOH said no procurement was made in 2019 for supplies that are still substantial in its inventory to prevent overstocking.

    The COA however pointed out that the fact that there were still stocks remaining in the DOH warehouse from 2017 and 2018 procurement as of 2020 only proves its findings of “poor procurement planning and ineffective inventory management.”

    “Said inventories should have already been distributed during the years 2017 and 2018 and should not have been affected by SCMO’s problem with third-party provider (of courier services),” the commission pointed out.