35 more medicines under DOH review for price cap
MANILA, Philippines — After the recent signing of the executive order (EO) that slashed the retail prices of 87 high-cost medicines by up to 58 percent, the Department of Health (DOH) said Tuesday it is reviewing 35 more medicines for inclusion in the final list of drugs to be covered by the price cap.
“DOH, together with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and stakeholders, was also tasked to review the price reduction of the remaining 35 drugs to finalize the list covered by the EO,” Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said in a press briefing.
The DOH initially proposed that 122 medicines be included in the second phase of the imposition of the Maximum Drug Retail Price (MDRP). The last MDRP was imposed in 2009 and only included five medicines.
Medicines included in the proposal of the DOH are used to treat hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, chronic lung diseases, and major cancers. The list also includes high-cost treatments for prematurity, chronic renal disease, psoriasis, and rheumatoid arthritis requested by patient and consumer organizations as well as several medical societies.
Ceiling prices for the 87 medicines with 133 formulations at the point of wholesale and retail shall be imposed in both public and private drug retail outlets including chain and independent drugstores, hospital pharmacies, health maintenance organizations and other outlets within 90 days, said Duque.
The MDRP is still subject to special discounts to senior citizens and persons with disability.
Duque said the DOH will immediately issue an administrative order to ensure the effective implementation of the EO, and will disseminate implementing guidelines to stakeholders.
“Violations of the price caps will be dealt with in accordance with the Cheaper Medicines Act and other relevant laws together with the DTI and the FDA,” he warned.
Dr. Anna Melissa Guerrero, program manager of DOH’s Pharmaceutical Division, meanwhile noted that prices of some medicines in the country are even higher than in more developed European countries.
She said that in some cases, the price of medicines here could even go twice or thrice as much as higher than in other countries.
In defending the price cap, Duque cited a Pulse Asia survey released by DOH last year showing that 99 percent of Filipinos do not buy all of their prescribed medicines because of its high cost.
The survey also found that 71 percent of Filipinos are willing and able to spend only less than P1,000 for a month’s supply of medicines, while only 24 percent are willing to spend up to P5,000.
“First, there is limited competition. Second, the disease burden. Demand is high so companies increase the prices because those who are sick are desperate,” said Duque, adding that profit is also added to the price of drugs in the process of supply from the manufacturer to wholesaler.
He noted that with the limited ability of many Filipinos to support even their basic needs, they will find it hard to pay for expensive medications.
“We cannot accept these sky-high prices as the norm. The industry and health institutions must be socially responsible and ensure that medicines are within reach of the ordinary Filipino. All of us should be sincere in providing fair and affordable access to medicines. The health of our people is primordial over business interests,” he said.
Edited by EDV
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