Drug makers offer up to 75% price cuts
MANILA, Philippines — In an effort to thwart the government’s plan to impose a price cap on more than a hundred medicines, pharmaceutical companies are offering to cut the prices of some of their drugs by up to 75 percent.
The Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines (PHAP) assured the public on Wednesday that several of its members were willing to slash prices of around 150 medicines used to treat at least 36 diseases.
The Department of Health (DOH) last week said it was determined to lower the price of 122 medicines for serious ailments, such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer by 56 percent.
It is awaiting President Rodrigo Duterte’s action on the list of medicines to be covered by the maximum drug retail price (MDRP) it submitted to Malacañang last month.
Neither the DOH nor the PHAP specified what medicines would be covered by the price cuts.
Same as bulk prices
With this offer from the drug companies, PHAP executive director Teodoro Padilla said the public would pay the same prices for medicines that government hospitals spend for “bulk” orders.
Citing examples from the DOH drug price reference index, Padilla said the price of a medicine for breast cancer was 74 percent lower while that for a kidney ailment was 50 percent cheaper than prevailing market prices if purchased by government hospitals.
“For instance, an anticholesterol tablet can sell for only P0.35 in a government hospital and a tablet for hypertension can be as low as P0.19,” Padilla said in a statement on Wednesday.
“It is actually at these levels of prices which we have been selling to the government in bulk in the past years. Several of our members are prepared to extend these same price reductions to the public, if the DOH will agree,” he added.
The medicines to be covered by the group’s proposed price drop include those for ailments, such as heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease, asthma, psoriasis, neurologic disorders and even HIV (human immunodeficiency virus). Also covered are medicines for leading cancers—breast, colorectal, lung, cervical, kidney, ovarian, lymphoma and prostate.
“These price reductions are generally expected to be felt throughout the supply chain from manufacturers down to both government and private retail drugstores and pharmacies that dispense medicines directly to the public,” Padilla said.
His statement was contrary to what Health Secretary Francisco Duque III disclosed last month that while PHAP was willing to cut the price of its products, it couldn’t guarantee how much pharmacies would sell them to the public.
“The offer is full of good intentions. But whether those intentions will translate into actual benefits to our people is something that is not clear,” Duque then said.
“They may be willing to cut down their prices but they admitted during our meeting that they cannot control how the retailers will structure their pricing,” he added.
Padilla said he hoped that the DOH and local officials would agree to their proposal to let government hospitals sell these low-priced medicines.
“We believe that through the DOH we would be able to extend the same lower-priced medicines to the public,” he said. “We believe that if the DOH is able to secure and make available more funds for medicines for the public, the issue of cheaper medicines will be addressed better.”
Padilla reiterated PHAP’s objection to the MDRP, claiming that the price control policy would only hurt rather than help the public.
“[P]rice control, based on experience worldwide, cannot be sustained mainly because the people have no money to buy [medicines] to begin with. It also leads to market inefficiencies that will hurt the public in the end,” he said.
Apart from the voluntary price cut, Padilla said PHAP would also offer programs that not only provide patients “holistic and comprehensive assistance” but also support the DOH in improving processes in supply chain management “to avoid medicine expiry in warehouses or medicine shortages in communities.”
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