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‘Out of reach’: Hontiveros bats for lower price of medicine

/ 05:05 PM November 05, 2019

MANILA, Philippines — “Out of reach.”

That was how Senator Risa Hontiveros described on Tuesday the prices of medicines in the country as she pushed for making medicines more accessible by lowering their prices.

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“Ilan pa ba ang mga Pilipinong dapat magkasakit at mamatay bago ibaba ang presyo ng gamot sa mga sakit na may lunas naman? Kailangan bang mabaon sa hirap ang pamilyang Pilipino sa tuwing may sakunang dumadating?” Hontiveros asked in her privilege speech.

(How many Filipinos should get sick and die for the prices of medicine for illnesses that have a cure to be lowered? Should Filipino families face extreme poverty when an unfortunate event arises?)

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Citing a study conducted by the Department of Health (DOH), the senator said prices of medicines in the Philippines are “still significantly higher” than international reference prices (IRP).

Hontiveros said the study showed that medicine prices in the public sector are four times higher than IRP while prices in the private sector are up to 22 times higher than IRP.

“It was also found that final prices for innovator branded medicines are 486% higher in the private sector compared to the same drugs sold in public hospitals,” Hontiveros said.

“I think this is too much,” she added.

The senator also touched on the Universal Health Care Law, whose benefits may only be erased due to the high prices of medicine.

Citing the latest Philippine National Health Accounts (PNHA), Hontiveros said that 41 percent of all healthcare spending in the country is on pharmaceutical products or drugs or medicine.

“Masasayang lang ang UHC law if this is not addressed (UHC Law would go to waste if this is not addressed.) All the funds that will be channeled for the implementation of this law will not make a dent in providing financial risk protection for our countrymen because of the high cost of medicines,” she said.

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Even in the middle class, upper-middle-class households are affected

The problem does not only affect poor families, Hontiveros said, as those in the middle class and upper-middle-class households also feel the burden of out-of-pocket expenditure for medicines.

“We have heard of countless stories of families living in relative comfort suffer impoverishment when a member of the family gets ill with a catastrophic disease like cancer, heart attack or stroke,” Hontiveros said.

“All of the family’s finances are channeled to finance these health care needs. Sometimes it gets to a point where they have to sell a property or dip into their savings just to cover the cost of health care,” she added.

Those in far-flung communities, meanwhile, opt not to have themselves checked as they would rather set their savings aside for other equally important needs.

A good Christmas gift

Hontiveros said lowering the prices of medicine in the country will be a good Christmas gift for Filipinos as she called on the government to exercise its power to regulate medicine prices under the Republic Act 9502 or the Cheaper Medicines Law which was passed in 2008.

“Panahon na para muling ipatupad ito. Sa tindi ng krisis sa pambansang kalusugan na ating dinadanas, kailangan mabilis, malawakan at mapagkalinga ating tugon at solusyon,” the senator said saying that the government previously managed to set Maximum Drug Retail Prices (MDRP) of five drugs.

(It is time to implement this again. With the degree of the national health crisis we are facing, we need a fast and broad response and solution.)

Hontiveros said that after consultation and deliberations with experts and stakeholders, “the DOH is ready to push the button on price control.”

“I also call on the President, who is given the authority under the law to impose the MDRP to act on these recommendations immediately,” Hontiveros said.

“Wag na po tayong magpatumpik tumpik pa. Magandang pamasko ito, Mr. President sa mga Pilipino nahihirapan na sa mataas na presyo ng lahat ng bilihin. This is a welcome reprieve for them,” she added.

(Let us not wait for more time. This is a good Christmas present, Mr. President for Filipinos who are suffering due to high prices of goods.)

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