July 26, 2017, 10:27 am
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Unfilled prescriptions

SENATOR Juan Miguel Zubiri is considering amending RA 9502 Quality and Affordable Medicines Act to include a Drug Price Regulatory Board that will reduce prices of drugs here--among the highest in the world. He is one of the original authors of RA 9502. “Our original bills recommended the creation of the Drug Price Regulatory Board. It disappeared in the final version. Now, it will be back in the amendments we will consider.”

“We should regulate prices... in addition to aggressive government importation, pooling of purchases of small drugstores to avail of discounts, and stocking rural health centers with low-cost drugs....The Committee will seriously look into the opportunity to buy low-cost drugs from China, India and Singapore. We will also ensure that we get the expanded list of drugs to be covered by the Maximum Drug Retail Price (MRDP) program.”

Zubiri recommended, DOH Secretary Ubial agreed to adopt the list of medicines proposed by patient groups, for the following: for cancer, end-stage renal disease, biologics for psoriasis and lupus, vaccines for pneumococcal and flu, hypertension, diabetes, arthritis, asthma and COPD. Zubiri recommended the addition of drugs for breast cancer and Hepatitis C. “We shall get the expanded list by July 27 this year and the Oversight Committee will strictly monitor the implementation of MDRP Phase 2.”

“For medicines, the free market competition doesn’t work for the welfare of the people. Free competition can work for luxuries, but, it has no place for drugs which is a life and death issue. Especially for the poor who can’t buy medicines despite PhilHealth, guarantee letters in government hospitals and limited free drugs from the Department of Social Welfare and Development.”

It’s been three years since the local Consumers’ Action for Empowerment or CAE has accused multinational pharmaceuticals of controlling the entire essential drug production chain in the Philippines from manufacturing, distribution and retail. This underhanded manipulation has resulted in expensive medicines. It is a case of monopoly control which the previous administrations looked away from.

The Philippines ranks among countries where medicines are most expensive. Pharmaceutical corporations dictate the high prices of medicines. The poor (making up the majority of the population) die with prescriptions, unfilled, shoved under his pillow.

Dr. Julie Caguiat, convener of CAE at that period, said then that given the monopoly control, the Philippines’ Cheaper Medicines Law cannot make any significant change in reversing the inaccessibility of essential medicines for the people. She cited (Nifedipine) Adalat Retard (20 mg) manufactured by Bayer pegged at P43.45 per tablet in most drugstores in the Philippines based on 2010 prices while the same brand and preparation can be bought in India at P1.44 per tablet. The same is true with (Mefenamic Acid) Ponstan (500 mg) manufactured by Pfizer which is bought in the country for P25.77 and the same drug can be bought in India at P2.96.

Caguiat, in 2012: “Why are the same brands of medicines cheaper in India? It is because, unlike our government which succumbs to the dictates of these Transnational Corporations, India imposed strict regulations, decisively curbing the control of TNCs in its drug industry.” Poor families bear the burden of expensive medicines. 

A research years ago done by Ibon Foundation reported that the average family spent P7,018 for health whereas the government allotted a measly P912.50 per person that year; the bottom half of the households spend an average of 49 percent of their total health expenses for medicines; there is no capitation for primary care and 80 percent of pharmacy sales are on outpatient.

CAE, back in 2012: “The government cannot argue anymore that there is no sufficient fund for health or medicines for that matter. The Aquino government reeks of systemic corruption.... We call on the government to undertake immediate measures to make essential medicines accessible to the people: remove the monopoly control of TNCs in medicine prices; remove 12 percent of VAT in essential medicines; ensure free essential medicines in public hospitals; abolish the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) and allocate bigger budget for health including providing for free essential medicines for the poor.”

For more info, SENATOR JUAN MIGUEL F. ZUBIRI, Ms. Leoncio 0929-2048706.


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