By Mario Casayuran
Senator Christopher “Bong” Go Monday reiterated his commitment to push for measures to provide all Filipinos with better access to affordable essential medicines.
Go, chairman of the Senate health committee, expressed this as President Duterte signed Executive Order (EO) No. 104 dated Feb. 17 that regulates the prices of select drugs, including essential medicines most commonly prescribed to patients.
“Nagpapasalamat po ako sa ating mahal na Pangulo sa pag-apruba ng rekomendasyon ng Senado na paigtingin pa lalo ang access ng mga Pilipino sa murang gamot. Patuloy po tayong magtatrabaho para maging mas mabilis, maayos, at maaasahan ang serbisyong pang-medikal sa ating bansa,” Go said.
(I thank the President for approving the Senate recommendation to enhance the access of cheap medicines to Filipinos. We continue to work for fast, easy, and accessible medical service in our country.)
The EO was signed a few months after Go vowed to personally discuss the matter with the President.
At the Senate session on Nov. 5, Go said he would “suggest to the President the inclusion of all essential medicines in the proposed list of expanded MDRP (Maximum Drug Retail Prices) and for its immediate release to complement the Universal Health Care Law.”
Go explained further that the expanded list under MDRP would complement the Universal Healthcare Act and the Malasakit Center Act in providing accessible quality healthcare for all Filipinos.
Go has pleaded with companies to balance their profit with the interest of every Filipino and every patient.
EO No. 104 imposes a maximum retail price (MRP) and maximum wholesale price (MWP) on “select drugs and medicines totaling to 86 drug molecules or 133 drug formulas” annexed to the order.
The EO also orders representatives from the Department of Health (DOH) and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to “convene and review” the prices of the remaining “36 drug molecules or 72 drug formulas previously proposed to be included in the MRP and MWP list.”
The President signed the EO, as recommended by DOH and echoed by various senators including Go, in accordance with the provisions of Republic Act (RA) No. 9502 or the Cheaper Medicines Act of 2008, which grants the President of the Philippines the power to impose maximum retail prices over drugs and medicines sold in the country, upon the recommendation of the DOH Secretary.
“Healthcare is a right, not a commodity,” Go said.
He also said he is supporting the initiative to control the prices of select drugs and medicine as “an advocate of universal healthcare access for all Filipinos” and “to ensure that our countrymen and women gain easier access to cheaper quality medicines.”
“Essential medicines in the Philippines continue to be exorbitantly priced relative to international counterparts. Generic drug prices are also approximately up to four times higher than international reference prices,” he added.
In selecting which drugs and medicines should be covered by MRP and MWP, the President, in the EO, stated the following criteria:
- Drugs that address the health priorities of the general public especially those that account for the leading causes of morbidity and mortality.
- Drugs that have high price differentials/arbitrage compared to international prices.
- Drugs that have limited competition in terms of lack of generic counterparts or lack of market access to these products.
- Drugs where the innovator product is the most expensive yet most prescribed and/or dispensed in the market.
The EO further states that the MRP will be imposed on all public and private retail outlets, including drugstores, hospitals and hospital pharmacies, health maintenance organizations, convenience stores and supermarkets, and the like.
MWP, meanwhile, will be imposed on all manufacturers, wholesalers, traders, distributors, and the like.
The drugs and medicines included in the MRP and MWP list will be subject to review by the DOH, in consultation with the DTI, within six months from the effectivity of the order and every six months thereafter.
Violations of EO No. 104 will be dealt with in accordance with RA 9502 and other related laws.
“Alam nyo po, matagal na ang batas na ito. Noong pang 2008 pa itong Cheaper Medicines Act at, gaya ng sinabi ko, kailangan pa ba nating maghintay ng 12 na taon o tatlong presidente pa bago maimplementa ito,” he added.
(You know, this law has been around a long time. This Cheaper Medicines Act has been around since 2008, and, like I said, do we have to wait 12 years or three presidents before this is implemented?)
The objective of the EO is to improve the access of Filipinos to healthcare through the imposition of maximum retail prices on drugs that address the top causes of morbidity and mortality in the country.
“Alam naman natin na marami pong kababayan natin ang nangangailangan ng gamot, minsan wala nga po silang choice. Bumibili na lang ng gamot kahit mahal, sa hangaring humaba ang kanilang buhay tulad nitong mga medisina para sa diabetes, hypertension, cancer, at iba pang sakit,” Go said.
(We know that many of our countrymen need medicines. They have no choice but to buy medicines at even if they are expensive, out of the desire to prolong their lives, medicines such as those for diabetes, hypertension, cancer, and other sicknesses.)
Go assured the public that he and the President will continue to serve and protect the welfare and interest of Filipinos who need government attention the most, especially the most vulnerable sectors of society and the generations of Filipinos to come.
“Gusto naming hindi na maging problema ang pagpapagamot ng mga mahihirap. Gusto naming labanan ang droga, korapsyon, at kriminalidad. Gusto naming mabigyan ng magandang kinabukasan ang susunod na henerasyon,” he said. (We want that medical treatments for the poor will no longer be a problem. We want to fight illegal drugs, corruption, and criminality. We want to give a good future to the next generation.)