SENATOR and presidential candidate Emmanuel “Manny” D. Pacquiao, Sr. on Sunday called on authorities to go after smugglers of over-the-counter medicines rather than clamping down on neighborhood retail shops.

“We need to restrict the entry of counterfeit drugs and small miscellaneous stores should not be oppressed. No counterfeit can be sold if none can enter,” the retired boxing champion said in a statement in Filipino. 

“We just need to implement our generic (medicine) law well so that it will make cheap but effective drugs accessible,” he said. 

The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) recently announced that it will launch a campaign to stop small shops, commonly known as sari-sari stores, from selling nonprescription medicines. 

Mr. Pacquiao suggested that sari-sari stores can just be required to submit a list of drugs they are selling to their barangay units for monitoring. 

Restricting these convenience shops from selling over-the-counter medicines — for such ordinary ailments like flu, diarrhea or stomach ache, and body pains, — is “anti-poor and very impractical for rural folks,” he said.  

“Not everyone is close to drug stores… Not everyone has a car to go to town to buy medicine at night,” he added.

From Jan. 13 to Feb. 11, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) received 185 reports of sari-sari stores allegedly selling nonprescription drugs, with 78 already confirmed guilty. Nine of these stores were also found to be selling fake medicines, including those supposedly intended for treatment of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). 

Under the law, only FDA-licensed retail drug outlets or pharmacies are allowed to sell drugs and medicine to the public. — Alyssa Nicole O. Tan