, Philippines – Health Secretary Enrique Ona suggested on Monday a mandatory use of generic drugs for PhilHealth members to help bring down the prices of medicines in the country.
During the hearing of the quality affordable medicine oversight committee, Ona said the government may choose not to pay PhilHealth if the prescribed medicines were not generics.
“It is incumbent upon the healthcare industry to make sure that the public is made aware of the number of choices that they can have and for me there is where PhilHealth will have the big clout. Meaning it will be very easy for example, not really easy, for PhilHealth not to pay amlodiphine if it is given to a particular patient if they don’t use generics, something to that effect,” Ona said.
“So pwede ho itong magawa through the so called force of market or market forces rather dun yung sinasabing nating pipilitin nating babaan yung (prices of medicines),” he said but he was cut by Senator MannyVillar, who presided over the hearing.
“Mr. Secretary that’s the law. It’s not for us to discuss it. I realize that we might come up with better alternatives, we will have to craft another law. But, right now there’s the law, and whether we like it or not, we have to follow,” said Villar.
“In case of the affordable medicines, we have no choice. This is the law,” he said, referring to the existing Cheaper Medicines Act.
But Ona insisted his position that the government can use PhilHealth to help address the country’s problem on the prices of medicines.
“Dahil ho ngayon malaki laki na ang participation ng PhilHealth in the payment of the cost of care of our people so we have to make sure, pag hindi ho natin binayaran ho sila unless that it is a generic drug that is used, definitely the prices would be lower,’ said the Health Secretary.
“When I became secretary of Health I noticed the so-called inadequate implementation of the law and I’m going to make sure an in-depth, which I call at this point, evaluation of the effect of the lowering of these medicines,” Ona said.
Before this, Villar reiterated his observation that the implementation of the Cheaper Medicines Law was being ‘sabotaged,” the reason why the prices of drugs continue to rise despite the passage of the law.
Before the passage of the law, Villar noted that the price of Plendil was P23.76 but it could be bought now for P32.25 in mercury drugs store and P61.00 in St Luke’s hospital.
From P352, the price of Ventolin inhaler went up to P432.50 in mercury drugs store and from P26 and P17, the prices of Ponstan and Bactrim went up to P29.75 and P33.75 in mercury drugs stores and P57 and P64 in St Luke’s hospital.
“What is becoming clear now is that the law is not at all being implemented properly. I would even go to the extent of saying it is being sabotaged. Let me tell you that we will not allow that,” Villar said, adding that Congress may amend the law so there will be no need for concerned agencies to com e up with implementing rules and regulation, where he said “all of the magics happen.”
Ona agreed with the observation of the senator and then suggested the use of generics to force the market to bring down the prices of medicines.
“We now have a generics law and in the spirit really of an honest to goodness leveling field to a competition, if we’re really able to implement the use of generics, then to me automatically these drugs should go down,” he said.