Pfizer Catches Flak for Giving Drug Discounts to Some But Not All Filipinos

Last Updated Jul 8, 2009 4:55 PM EDT

Pfizer has been criticized for offering some Filipinos discounts of up to 60 percent on its drugs because the discounts are not available to all. In the Philippines, Pfizer promotes a "Sulit Patient Care Program" in which holders of the Sulit card get discounts on various Pfizer drugs. About 1.9 million patients have taken advantage of it, Pfizer claims.

The problem, according to the Business Mirror's hyperbolic columnist, Lito Gagni, is that:
... the cards are usually handed out in expensive hospitals that are visited by medical representatives.

... So, because Mang Juan, with his hands gnarled from overwork, and countless other poor Filipinos can never hope to be treated in an expensive hospital, they can never hope to ever possess a Sulit 50-percent discount card for Pfizer products.
The Sulit card was a response to criticism that Pfizer opposed the import of cheap Pfizer drugs from India. (Sounds familiar!) Pfizer countered that it was extending the Sulit benefit:
... we are about to extend its benefits to millions more patients in partnership with the Government Service Insurance System and other major health-care providers who share the view that the program is good for the Philippines.
Gagni wasn't mollified:
[Pfizer's] card gimmick has "1.9 million Filipino beneficiaries." But according to Social Welfare Secretary Esperanza Cabral, a respected cardiologist, there are more than 17 million hypertensive Filipinos who should have access to more affordable treatment. Unfortunately, they are not Sulit-enrolled.
Doubtless Pfizer will file this one under "no good deed goes unpunished."

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