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New EO sets maximum retail and wholesale prices on more meds

By: - Reporter / @JeromeAningINQ
/ 05:36 AM December 09, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the imposition of maximum retail and wholesale prices (MRPs and MWPs) on more drugs and medicines to further improve the Filipinos’ access to health care.

In Executive Order No. 155, which was published in the Official Gazette on Wednesday a day after he signed it, the president said that there was a need to expand the number of drugs and medicines commonly used for the leading causes of morbidity in the country covered by MRPs and MWPs.

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MRP refers to the price cap given to consumers, while MWP is the ceiling price given by manufacturers, traders, and distributors to retailers.

The executive order, which takes effect after publication in the Official Gazette, is consistent with the overall strategy of the government under Republic Act No. 11223, or the Universal Health Care Act, to improve access to affordable and quality medicine and reduce health-related out-of-pocket expenses of Filipinos, Duterte said.

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Last year, the president issued Executive Order No. 104, which imposed MRPs and MWPs on 87 drug molecules and 133 drug formulas of selected drugs and medicines.

71 drug formulas

The medicines covered were selected based on the following criteria: those that are used to treat diseases that are deemed top causes of mortality in the country, those with high price differentials, limited price competition or lack of market access, and those that are expensive but are most prescribed and dispensed in the market.

According to a Department of Health (DOH) memorandum that set the EO 104’s implementing guidelines, the MRP of medicines under EO 821, an earlier executive order imposing a price cap on medicines, would continue to take effect.

This 2009 EO reduced prices by as much as 50 percent on certain medicines used to aid “diseases of public health concern” such as hypertension, diabetes, common bacterial infections, amoebiasis and cancer.

EO 155 imposes maximum price limits on an additional 34 drug molecules and 71 drug formulas used as agents affecting bone metabolism, analgesics, anesthetics, anti-angina, antiarrhythmics, anti-asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease medicines, antibiotics, anticoagulants, anticonvulsants, antidiabetic drugs, antidiuretics, and antiemetics.

Also covered by the EO are drug molecules and formulas utilized in antiglaucoma, antihypercholesterolemia medicines, antihypertensive medicines, antineoplastic/anticancer medicines, antiparkinsons drugs, drugs for overactive bladders, growth hormone inhibitors, immunosuppressant drugs, iron chelating agents, and psoriasis, seborrhea and ichthyosis medicines.

The president’s order requires all manufacturers, importers, distributors, wholesalers, traders, and retailers to “display the retail price which shall not exceed the MRP.”

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Retail price

The EO specifies that the MRP, preceded by the words “RETAIL PRICE NOT TO EXCEED,” and “UNDER DRUG PRICE REGULATION,” on a red strip, shall be clearly printed on the label of the immediate container of the drug and medicine and the minimum pack offered for retail.

The list of medicines and their corresponding MRPs and MWPs shall be reviewed by the DOH, in consultation with the Department of Trade and Industry six months from the effectivity of the EO, and every six months thereafter.

Violations of the EO shall be dealt with in accordance with RA 9502, or the Universally Accessible Cheaper and Quality Medicines Act of 2008, and other related laws.

Under RA 9502, the health secretary is also directed to investigate alleged violations of the MRP and MWP regulations, impose administrative fines and penalties, and call upon and deputize government entities for assistance necessary to implement the EO.

Cheaper meds

The cheaper medicines law gives the health secretary the power to impose fines ranging from P50,000 to P5 million for violations of the MRPs approved by the President.

The law was intended to regulate the prices of medicines and ensure their availability.

Interventions to ensure medicines remain within reach include the imposition of MRP, drug price monitoring, promotion of quality generic drugs, and reimbursements from Philippine Health Insurance Corp.

According to data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), the nation’s per capita spending for healthcare goods and services averaged P8,216 in 2020. This was up by 10.7 percent in 2019 when it was P7,423.

By healthcare provider, the bulk of spending went to hospitals at 43.8 percent, followed by pharmacies and other retailers of medical goods at 28.2 percent, according to the PSA. Spending for health was largely financed through government schemes and compulsory health care financing schemes amounting to P409.4 billion. This was followed by household out-of-pocket payments with a total of P400 billion.

—WITH A REPORT FROM KATHLEEN DE VILLA, INQUIRER RESEARCH
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