Pharma companies offer to cut prices

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    PADILLA
    PADILLA

    Pharmaceutical companies have offered to significantly reduce the prices of several medicines as a counter-offer to a Department of Health (DOH) proposal to set price caps.

    The Philippine Health Care Association of the Philippines (PHAP) submitted last Monday to DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III their “Mas Murang Gamot” proposal in lieu of the agency’s  Maximum Drug Retail Price (MDRP) policy.

    In a statement, PHAP said 18 companies some of which are not members of PHAP are offering to reduce prices of some medicines that address major non-communicable diseases, infectious diseases and rare disorders.

    A number of these medicines are listed in the MRDP policy.

    PHAP did not identify these medicines nor the level of reduction.

    PHAP said apart from the price reduction on medicines, its members are making available medicine assistance programs which offer holistic and comprehensive assistance to patients for their entire treatment, from diagnosis to treatment and to monitoring.

    Initially for cancer, PHAP said the program may contain various medicine support for patients from free cancer medicines or discounts, support for laboratory testing and monitoring, patient education, online community support and capacity-building for healthcare providers.

    PHAP cited as an example the willingness of pharmaceutical companies to give patients with breast cancer up to 54 percent discount on a cancer drug, or free medicines on certain treatment cycles.

    “Aside from lowering medicine prices, we are now looking at ways to help patients through their whole medical journey from prevention to treatment to cure, if that is possible. We will announce these initiatives as soon as we work out the partnership details with the DOH,” said Teodoro Padilla, executive director of PHAP.

    Padilla also called for a review of government hospital pricing of medicines to narrow their wide gaps with those sold in private drug stores.

    He said the acquisition cost of government hospitals is cheaper because procurement is centralized.

    “That is the real solution, not price control which may be initially popular but ineffective and actually counter-productive as some countries have found out. Price control can price medicines at levels that are unsustainable,” Padilla said in the statement.

    He added: “Government hospitals, not price control, are the solution in helping the public reduce their medicine costs. The issue that needs to be addressed is how to make supplies last and how to make them more available through other outlets.”

    But Padilla acknowledged supply is a function of the health department having the budget even as he urged Congress and the executive department to address this issue as the budget for next year has yet to be passed.

    Padilla also called on the public to buy from government hospitals and pharmacies that have been found to have the lowest prices because they could pool their requirements and procure with volume.

    He said if government hospitals and pharmacies could offer more of these cheaper medicines to more people in more areas, the country would be able to somehow catch up with its neighbors in terms of healthcare participation.

    Citing studies, PHAP said Filipino patients pay about 54 percent of their own healthcare costs compared to only 12 percent in Thailand, 38 percent in Malaysia, and 37 percent in Indonesia. The government’s share in medicine expenditure is 91 percent in Thailand, 54 percent in Malaysia, and 14 percent in Indonesia.

    Padilla cited as an example an anti-diabetic drug metformin (500mg) sells only for P0.56 to P19 in government hospitals compared to P0.62 to P35 in private hospitals, and from P1.50 to P16.15 in retail outlets.

    Losartan (100mg), which is for high blood pressure control, sells for P0.86 to P36 in government hospitals, P2.75 to P68 in private hospitals, and P8 to P34.50 in retail outlets.