Population Commission hopes SC will soon lift implants TRO

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‘We now have a roadmap wherein the TRO will be lifted, we hope within the year,’ says Commission on Population Executive Director Juan Antonio Perez III

SC file photo by Lian Buan/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Population (PopCom) said it hopes the Supreme Court (SC) will lift "within the year" the 2015 temporary restraining order (TRO) on the health department’s distribution and sale of contraceptive implants.

"We now have a roadmap wherein the TRO will be lifted, we hope within the year. The earlier, the better," PopCom Executive Director Juan Antonio Perez III said after a World Population Day event on Tuesday, July 11, in Quezon City.

Perez said PopCom, however, is waiting for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to take action, "so we will give them time needed, and we will wait for their decision."

Perez noted that on one hand, the Philippines has improved in terms of women of reproductive age availing of family planning services, from 37% in 2013 to 45% in 2016. On the other hand, he pointed out a decrease in the use of contraceptive implants because of the TRO.

He explained that women "are choosing other methods of family planning," increasing by 1.5 million the number of women who have taken family planning since the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Law was implemented.

The SC said in its latest decision that the TRO would be deemed lifted if, after compliance with due process, the "questioned drugs and devices are found not abortifacient" by the FDA.

Giving time to FDA

In May, PopCom said only 23 contraceptives remain available for the public this year as a result of the TRO. It said 15 certificates of product registration (CPR) expired in 2016, while 10 expired that month.

"By 2020, no contraceptives can be procured from the market. As such, CPR expirations will effectively lead to a total phaseout of [family planning] commodities in the market before 2020," the PopCom then said in a statement.

Asked for updates on the status of other contraceptives, Perez said the Department of Health (DOH) "still cannot buy some of the contraceptives" pending the FDA’s compliance with the SC, which directed it to formulate rules of procedure in the screening, evaluation, and approval of all contraceptive drugs and devices that will be used under the RH law.

Perez said that for the moment, the government still cannot fill the shortage "because DOH still cannot buy some of the contraceptives."

"So DOH has to wait for the FDA decision. Hopefully the FDA will decide on the Implanon first, and then they will cover the other contraceptives over the next few years or months after that," Perez explained.

Implanon is the contraceptive implant covered by the TRO

He added: "We have to give the FDA the time to make the decision. This is an important matter, so we’ll wait for their decision. Hopefully, during that time, women will continue to use the available contraceptives." – Rappler.com