More medicines covered by planned price cap

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    Access & affordability issue. Medicines in the expanded list are used to treat critical ailments.
    Access & affordability issue. Medicines in the expanded list are used to treat critical ailments.

    More medicines are planned to be included in the proposed maximum retail price (MRP) program of the government .

    From an earlier list of 120 medicines released in July, the list has been nearly doubled to 210, data from the Department of Health (DOH) showed.

    The DOH has given interested parties until Friday, October 4, to comment on the updated list for deliberation and final recommendation.

    The expanded list covers some of the medicines widely-used to treat some of the most critical ailments in the Philippines, from cancer to asthma to diabetes and hypertension.

    It has also been updated from data collected through the Drug Price Watch 2018 and actual inquiries and hospitals done in the first quarter of 2019

    Vic Dimagiba, convenor of the Laban Konsyumer Inc. (LKI) in a letter to DOH Undersecretary Enrique Domingo, reiterated its support to the second part of MRP .

    “…It is the constitutional duty of the State to ensure access to health care services at affordable prices to all classes of consumers. As such , the MRP Part II shall expand the right of the consumers to information as well as widen its choices on affordable and quality medicines,” Dimagiba said in his letter.

    Dimagiba said the pharmaceutical industry can weather the proposed MRP and shall continue to thrive and profit even with the expanded list.

    According to Dimagiba, lowering the prices of medicines is happening as well in advanced economies and countries like the United States and Canada.

    He said lowering the prices of medicines is even more needed here in the Philippines where at least 40 percent are considered poor.

    “The Philippines should remain steadfast in this advocacy. We should not believe the threats to access and innovation. This industry is up in arms against the giants of the world economy . We should not be allowed to be the whipping consumers,” Dimagiba said.

    The proposed order imposing MRP follows the imposition of mandatory price cuts on five branded medicines in 2009 that resulted in the 50 percent reduction in the prices of Amlodipine, Atorvastatin, Azithromycin, Cytarabine and Doxorubicin. Later, a voluntary price reduction scheme was operated between the government and the industry covering 69 branded drugs with resulting in price cuts ranging from 30 to 70 percent.

    The DOH said imposing MRP will promote and ensure access to affordable quality drugs and medicines for all and achieve universal health care including financial risk protection.

    Some of the most expensive medicines in the expanded list are those which treat cancer.

    Pertuzumab, a breast cancer drug, is the most expensive in the list. From P222,8222 per vial, the price of this medicine will drop to P125,502.54.

    Another cancer medicine, Emtansine, will see a 33 percent reduction from P158,270 per vial to P105,970; Octreodite, also a cancer medicine, is proposed to be priced at P63,897 per vial, significantlylower than the P188,864 price today

    The DOH said imposing MRP will promote and ensure access to affordable quality drugs and medicines for all and achieve universal health care including financial risk protection.

    According to the DOH, medicine prices in the Philippines exceed those in developed countries. A lung cancer medicine costing P4,279.23 in the Philippines approximates the cost in UK, at P4,832.60 while a medicine for allergic asthma chronic urticaria which costs P23,756.92 in the Philippines is about the same in Canada at P24,320.97

    The DOH said the imposition of MRP in Indonesia resulted in the decline in the price of lowest-priced generics and innovator brands from 40 to 2,200 percent.