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MANILA, Phillippines - Health Secretary Enrique Ona has warned the public against indiscriminatingly taking the leptospirosis drug doxycycline, adding that it does not provide for total protection against the disease and that not everyone can take it.
"Those who will develop fever even after taking doxycycline should go to their doctor for examination. Doxycycline is not recommended for pregnant women and children below eight years of age," Ona said in a statement Monday.
Doxycycline is an antibiotic that is recommended to fight leptospirosis, a disease caused by infection from rat urine. The Department of Health said, however, that the drug should only be taken as prescribed by a physician and cannot be bought over the counter.
Last week, the Department of Health distributed boxes of doxycycline capsules to 17 local government units in the National Capital Region as monsoon-induced floods battered the capital, sending almost a million people in congested evacuation centers.
Ona issued the statement in the light of an expected surge in leptospirosis cases as 80 percent of Metro Manila was submerged in floodwater. From January to July 28 this year, the DOH recorded a total of 2,213 leptospirosis cases in the country, or 87.23 percent higher than the same period last year.
At the same time, the health chief appealed to drug manufacturers and distributors to maintain the prices of medicines, especially antibiotics. President Benigno Aquino III recently ordered the DOH to investigate reports that prices of some essential drugs have spiked, prompting the department to advise the public to report drug overpricing by dialing 711-1001.
The Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines (PHAP) on Friday assured the government that all its 46 members are not jacking up prices of essential medicines, especially those needed during calamities.
Ona said doxycycline’s price can be pegged from as low as P2 to as high as P15 per piece depending on the manufacturer. He advised the public to buy generic doxycycline, which is available in government hospital drugstores and in commercial pharmacies.
“We want the public to be able to make informed decisions and get the best prices on doxycycline and other drugs and medicines,” said the health chief.
Per the DOH guidelines for the administration of doxycycline, each person will be given a 100mg capsule weekly for protection against leptospirosis.
Leptospirosis symptoms begin from two to 25 days after initial exposure to the urine of rodents. Flu-like symptoms including headaches, muscle pains, chills and fever are manifested in an exposed person. Leptospirosis can be deadly when it affects the brain and other vital organs such as the liver, lungs and the heart.