‘Price control not the answer’


    The Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines (PHAP) said government can give Filipinos better access to affordable medicines without resorting to price control.

    In a statement, PHAP said based on a study, the poor did not fully benefit from the first round of Maximum Retail Price (MRP) program in 2009, which the Department of Health (DOH) now plans to expand to more medicines through a department order.

    Teodoro Padilla, executive director of PHAP, said price control is “contentious and counterproductive” as what other countries had experienced when they adopted this scheme.

    A better and a sustainable option, Padilla said, is a strong health insurance system that will cover medicine and healthcare expenses instead of spending for them out-of-pocket.

    He cited countries such as Thailand and Singapore and the United Kingdom as having been successful in doing this.

    The group is seeking a meeting with DOH Secretary Francisco Duque
    to harmonize their efforts in not just lowering medicine prices by up to 84 percent for various disease categories but also in “ensuring patients are supported throughout their journey. “

    “We are reaching out to the government as a partner so that it does not have to resort to price control… We can work together, achieve exactly the same or better objectives, and sustain it over the long haul,” Padilla added.

    Padill said PHAP will discuss with the DOH existing high-impact patient assistance programs by individual PHAP members that give free screenings and diagnostic tests, education and counselling, and special medicine pricing for patients to lower total treatment cost.

    He said these patient assistance programs can serve as a framework for future expansion of the cooperation with the government, specifically in the areas of cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular and chronic respiratory diseases among others.

    “If more resources are allocated for the health of the people, the poor will benefit which is the essence of Universal Healthcare,” he said.

    Padilla said there are tools available under the Universal Healthcare Law (Republic Act No. 111223) and the Cancer Control Act (Republic Act No. 11215) that could make medicines more accessible and affordable.

    These include provisions for centrally negotiated procurement, expansion of primary care drug benefit, early access to innovative medicines, special access schemes from the private sector, health technology assessment, and pooled procurement.