Dr. Enrique Tayag, DOH Undersecretary-Director IV of National Epidemiology Center (third from left), supported the launch of Antibiotics Compliance Packs made by Watsons Pharmacy and Unilab. The event was likewise attended by Lyle Joseph Morel, Health Business Unit Director of Watsons Pharmacy; Dr. Lindon Lee Suy, Program Manager of DOH’s National Center for Disease Prevention and Control; Dr. Robert Sun, Chief Operating Officer Watsons Personal Care Stores Inc. Philippines; Dra. Anna Melissa Guerrero, Program Director of National Center for Pharmaceutical Access and Management; and Allan Bautista, Operating Vice President of United Laboratories, Inc.

WATSONS PHARMACY and pharmaceutical manufacturer UNILAB launched the antibiotics Compliance Pack to promote and teach proper antibiotic use to Filipinos and to help prevent the emergence of superbugs (antibiotic-resistant bacteria). Antibiotics Compliance Packs are now being sold exclusively in all outlets of WATSONS PHARMACY.

The Compliance Packs contain prepackaged antibiotics in amounts that are usually prescribed by doctors to patients. They are priced forty to sixty percent lower compared to multi-national brands. The antibiotics in these packs are of guaranteed quality and effectiveness, sourced from UNILAB.

“When we heard about the project (antibiotics Compliance Packs) we agreed right away to be part of it. That’s because making medicines more affordable to more Filipinos is an advocacy of UNILAB,” said Atty. Jose Maria Ochave, Corporate VP for Business Development Group, UNILAB.

Ochave said that UNILAB keeps improving its initiative in lowering the prices of its medicine. It manufactures and markets off-patent pharmaceuticals that are just as effective, yet more affordable, compared to equivalent branded drugs. The antibiotics manufactured by UNILAB, which cost forty to sixty percent lower than multinational brands, are packaged in the Compliance Packs.

According to Lyle Joseph Morrell, Health Business Unit Head of WATSONS, the lower prices of quality antibiotics being sold in Compliance Packs will help patients use antibiotics more properly.

As an example, Morrell mentioned Amoxicillin 500mg, the most basic type of antibiotic used to treat patients with community acquired infections. “A full dosage of Amoxicillin 500mg costs P273 if one buys from a multinational brand. On the other hand, a full dose of Amoxicillin 500mg in a Compliance Pack costs only P110. That’s already a savings of 60 percent if the consumer buys the Compliance Pack,” said Morrell.

Dangerous misuse

During the launch, a lecture on improper antibiotic use and superbugs– antibiotic-resistant bacteria that no longer treatable by the antibiotics being used today–was presented Dr. Rontgene M. Solante, president of the Philippines Society of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases.

According to Dr. Solante, the number one cause of superbugs emergence is improper use of antibiotics. Superbugs are. “If we keep using antibiotics improperly, the day may come when our antibiotics no longer work against bacterial infections—we will have an infectious disease apocalypse that will endanger the human race,” says Dr. Solante.

Dr. Solante explained in his presentation how ordinary bacteria become superbugs. He said that when the wrong antibiotic is used at a wrong dosage, the bacteria that survive are able to mutate: changing their chemical and cellular structure so that when they are exposed to an antibiotic, it no longer affects them.

He said that four practices antibiotic misuse, which are unfortunately common in the Philippines, promote the emergence of superbugs. These include:

Self-medication. It’s risky to self-medicate, that is, to use antibiotics without a doctor’s prescription. When a patient buys antibiotics without a consulting a doctor, using an old prescription, or following the advice of relatives and friends, it’s likely that the antibiotics purchased will be the wrong ones, and will also be used at an improper dosage

Skipping a dose of antibiotic. Patients who miss a dose or several doses of antibiotic are allowing bacteria to recover from the antibiotic’s effects. There’s also a risk that the infection resurge

Stopping the antibiotic dose too early. There are patients who stop taking antibiotics once they feel better. Others are unable to buy all the antibiotics prescribed because they don’t have enough money.

Using antibiotics like over the counter drugs. Antibiotics are powerful medications that must be used only under a doctor’s supervision. Sadly, there are patients who think antibiotics are used to relieve symptoms like fever, body pain, coughs and colds. Such symptoms are usually caused by a viral infection. Antibiotics are not used to treat viral infections.

Instead, viral infections are best cured by taking enough rest, drinking lots of fluids, taking vitamins and supplements; using lozenges and other remedies. These remedies plus the body’s immune system are usually enough to fight off a viral infection.

Some patients, however, do not know the difference between a viral and a bacterial infection. So they antibiotics without a doctor’s prescription, just like over-the-counter medicines—and some drugstores allow patients to do this. Dr. Solante cited a medical study that found that 66% of antibiotics sold in Manila were sold without a prescription.

“These practices, when done often enough, lead to the emergence of superbugs. In the Philippines, two types of bacteria—one that causes gonorrhea and another that causes tuberculosis, are already antibiotic-resistant,” he said.

Antibiotics compliance campaign

The antibiotics Compliance Pack is part of a joint campaign for antibiotics compliance being conducted by WATSONS and UNILAB. The Compliance Packs sold in WATSONS stores are one way of educating the public about proper antibiotic use and will help patients use antibiotics properly.

Since the antibiotics are already pre-packaged in their proper amounts, they are more convenient and accurate to use. The lower price and high quality of the Compliance Packs
antibiotics, as provided by UNILAB, also make them more affordable to patients.

WATSONS also helps in the campaign by making sure its store pharmacists are well-trained and knowledgeable in the proper use of antibiotics. Patients who are buying antibiotics in WATSONS stores are assisted by pharmacists and taught how to use antibiotics properly.

If a patient wants to buy unprescribed antibiotics but obviously only has cold symptoms or a viral infection, which do not need antibiotics to be cured—then the pharmacist may either point out that the patient does not need antibiotics yet, or tell the patient to consult a doctor first. The pharmacist may also recommend over-the-counter medicine to relieve a patient’s symptoms.

Solante said that the problem of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and a possible “infectious disease apocalypse” is a serious health concern in the Philippines and the rest of the world. He said that a campaign like the one by WATSONS and UNILAB is a good idea and will help efforts of doctors, researchers and the Department of Health in preventing superbug emergence in the country.


A SERIOUS THREAT TO OUR HEALTH, the deadly super bacteria, also known as “superbug”, has already spread to Southeast Asia, Europe and North America. There is no known cure for a superbug infection, since it is resistant to most commonly prescribed antibiotics, including the carbapenems, the most powerful antibiotics created by medical science. Are Filipinos in danger?

So far, one man in Belgium has been confirmed by the media to have died from a new superbug infection in June of 2010. This infection was caused by a superbug that contains what scientists call an NDM-1 mutation.

Superbugs with the NDM-1 mutation have already infected patients in India, Pakistan, the UK, the U.S., Australia, Japan and other Asian countries like China, Taiwan and Korea. The real number of actual deaths from NDM-1 may not be known—one health expert in Australia said, since the superbug has been around for quite some time in developing countries like India and Pakistan, there are no reliable records as to how many have actually died from the disease.

There is no known cure for super bacteria infections—prevention is the only option we have.

The Philippines’ Department of Health released a warning about superbugs in April 2011. According to a report on the website of Philippine News Daily, Dr. Eric Tayag, head of the DOH-National Epidemiology Center (NEC) warned that treatment for a superbug infection will be very difficult, since there is no drug that is effective against it. It would also be difficult to stop it from entering  the country due to the great number of travelers from abroad who arrive every day.

Worldwide concern

NDM-1 stands for New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase. The very first cases of superbugs with NDM-1 were recorded in New Delhi, India. Beta-lactamase is an enzyme produced by superbugs that neutralize antibiotics. Even more worrisome is that the NDM-1 mutation can be passed from one type of bacteria to another, so that more and more types of bacteria become antibiotic-resistant as well.

Health agencies like the World Health Organization, the Center for Disease Control and even our own Department of Health have expressed concern over superbugs and how they have the potential to cause a pandemic, or worldwide infections. Are we going to just sit around and wait for superbugs to infect our loved ones?

Antibiotic misuse is the problem

The misuse of antibiotics is being blamed for causing the emergence of superbugs. While antibiotics are very effective in killing bacteria, we have to use these drugs properly. When we use antibiotics the wrong way, not all of the bacteria are killed—the surviving bacteria then have the chance to develop mutations that make them resistant to antibiotics.

Widespread misuse of antibiotics in the Philippines, if not stopped, will eventually create new strains of superbugs that will have no cure, endangering us all, especially children and the elderly.

The only way to respond to this threat is to prevent the spread of the deadly superbug by promoting compliance to proper use of antibiotics. It’s the only way to protect ourselves from infections, illnesses and even death caused by these new antibiotic-resistant super bacteria.

Fight bacteria the right way

Consult a doctor before buying antibiotics. A doctor is the most qualified professional to guide you on what antibiotics you need to take for your illness.

Do not rely on own judgment or the advice of relatives and friends when buying antibiotics.

Self-medicating of antibiotics without or against a doctor’s advice poses a big problem. Due to lack of knowledge, some people believe that all antibiotics are the same, or that if an antibiotic worked for a relative or friend, it will work for them too. Some people also recycle their doctor’s old prescriptions and take the same antibiotics.

There are appropriate antibiotics for specific kinds of illnesses. Using a wrong antibiotic for a certain illness carries a greater health risk. Taking the wrong type of antibiotic may fail to kill the infectious bacteria inside the body. Eventually, these surviving bacteria may develop resistance to antibiotics.

When taking antibiotics, compliance is key – finish the entire dosage as prescribed by your doctor. There are patients who take the right antibiotics but fail to complete the entire recommended dosage.

Some people wrongly believe that once he feels better, he’s already cured and it’s okay to stop taking medicine.  This is a wrong conception. Even if a person starts to feel better, there are still surviving bad bacteria in his body.  Failing to complete the dosage will allow surviving bacteria to become superbugs.

Another reason is lack of money to purchase the complete dosage of prescribed antibiotics. Patients who try to save money on antibiotics may scrimp on their purchases and buy only as much antibiotics as they can afford. When they run out of money or start to feel better, they stop buying the antibiotic.

Some patients do not understand that they are only wasting money when they self-medicate or take medicines in wrong dosages, as these practices make their health worse. Taking the wrong or an incomplete dosage of antibiotics will promote the development of superbugs or lead to a more serious health threat to themselves and others.

Prevention is still the best cure. Practicing personal hygiene goes a long way in preventing bacterial infection and illness. Wash hands regularly and thoroughly, especially before meals and after using the restroom. This and other hygiene practices should become routine in our daily life.

 Antibiotics Compliance Campaign

Pharmacy retail chain WATSONS PHARMACY and pharmaceutical manufacturer UNILAB are launching a joint campaign to teach and promote antibiotic compliance.  The campaign aims to address the issue of antibiotic misuse and prevent the emergence of superbugs in the Philippines.

The campaign seeks to enlighten and empower Filipino consumers to prevent antibiotic resistance in their communities. WATSONS PHARMACY has competent and knowledgeable pharmacists who can give consumers advice on the proper use of antibiotics. Those who need additional medication advice on how to properly use the antibiotics prescribed to them may conveniently consult with their Watsons pharmacists.

UNILAB on the other hand will complement this effort by providing consumers with high-quality and effective antibiotics at lower prices. This is good news for Filipinos who need effective treatment for illnesses. The lower prices also make it easier for consumers to complete the full antibiotics dose.

The joint campaign between UNILAB and WATSONS PHARMACY has a two-pronged approach to fighting superbugs. UNILAB provides the antibiotics supply while WATSONS PHARMACY provides the knowledge and consultation regarding the antibiotics’ proper use. This not only helps more people get cured but also prevents superbug emergence.

We must fight the superbug now before it’s too late. Do not self medicate.  Comply to your doctor’s advice and educate yourself about proper antibiotic use and correct personal hygiene practices.


Chris Cahilig Consultancy
Contact Persons:    Chris Cahilig / Liza Vicente / Judy Ann Teo

Contact Numbers:     (02) 687-2649 / 687-2692 0920-9797922 / 0932-2453779