Duterte signs order on drug price caps

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    PRESIDENT Duterte yesterday signed an executive order setting the maximum retail and maximum wholesale prices of selected medicines.

    In Executive Order 104, he emphasized the need to improve access to health care, including affordability and accessibility of drugs and medicines.

    EO 104, titled “Improving Access to Healthcare through the Regulation of Prices in the Retail of Drugs and Medicines,” sets the maximum retail price (MRP) and maximum wholesale price (MWP) for “86 drug molecules or 133 drug formulas.”

    The health department’s original proposal was to regulate the retail prices of 122 drug molecules or 205 drug formulas, which include medicines for hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, chronic lung diseases, neonatal diseases and major cancers, costly treatments for chronic renal disease, psoriasis, and rheumatoid arthritis.

    The EO directs the Department of Health and the Department of Trade and Industry to review the prices of “36 drug molecules or 72 drug formulas” that were originally proposed to be included in the MRP and MWP list.

    It was back in November when the DOH submitted to Malacañang a draft EO imposing the price caps on 122 medicines.

    “Drugs and medicines contribute to the huge out-of-pocket health expenditure of Filipinos… the government acknowledges that expensive health care, including costly medicines, pushes a significant number of Filipinos to poverty, discourages them from seeking the appropriate medical treatment, leads to drug and medicine resistance, as well as endangers lives, thereby increasing the morbidity and mortality rates across the different socio-economic classes,” the EO said.

    The MRP will be imposed on all public and private retail outlets, including drugstores, hospitals and hospital pharmacies, health maintenance organizations, convenience stores and supermarkets and the like, while the MWP will be imposed on all manufacturers, wholesalers, traders, distributors and the like.

    The drugs and medicines included in the MRP and MWP lists will be subject to review by the DOH, in consultation with the DTI, within six months from the effectivity of the order and every six months thereafter.

    The Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines (PHAP) said its members will comply with the despite their continued opposition to the imposition of drug price caps.

    But it urged government to continuously monitor the impact of the price caps on the pharmaceutical industry and the general public.

    “We have been consistent in our opposition to price control since global experience had shown that artificial measures result in market inefficiencies and lack of supply,” PHAP said.

    It said that if reasonable profits are not realized, pharmaceutical companies are likely to review the sustainability of their operations in the Philippines, and may also lead to a downsizing in the number of employees of pharmaceutical firms. – With Gerard Naval