By Genalyn Kabiling
A price cap will be imposed on more than a hundred drugs and medicines to improve public access to healthcare based on a new order of President Duterte.
Under Executive Oder No. 104, the President sought to regulate the retail and wholesale prices of selected drugs and medicines used for hypertension, diabetes, pulmonary disease, cancer, among others, recognizing that these contribute to the “huge out-of-pocket expenditure” of Filipinos.
“This landmark measure would impose price regulation through a Maximum Retail Price (MRP), Maximum Wholesale Price (MWP), or both, on certain drugs and medicines,” Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said in a statement Monday.
“Access to affordable and quality drugs and medicines is now a reality under the Duterte Administration. This measure is part of the real and lasting reform which President Duterte has instituted in order that all Filipinos can live decent and comfortable lives that they deserve,” he said.
In the President’s latest order, the government has imposed MRP and MWP on select drugs and medicines “totaling to 86 drug molecules or 133 drug formulas.” A list of the medicines and corresponding MRP and MWP was placed in the annex of EO 104.
The order also covers drugs related to some immune-suppressants, analgesics, anti-asthmatic and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease preparation, anti-coagulants, anti-agina, agents affecting bone metabolism, antiemetic, anti-depressants, iron chelating agent, antiviral, fibrinolytic, mucolytic, and other drugs for treatment of psoriasis, seborrhea and icthyosis.
The drugs covered by EO 104 are chosen based on the criteria that they address the health priorities of the public especially those that account for the leading causes of morbidity and mortality; have high price differentials compared to international costs; have limited competition in terms of lack of generic counterparts or lack of market aces; and most expensive yet most prescribed innovator products.
The President also ordered a creation of a technical working group to review, in consultation with stakeholders, the prices of the remaining 36 drug molecules or 72 drug formulas previously proposed for price cap. The group will be composed of representatives of the Department of Health and Department of Trade Industry.
“The government acknowledges that expensive healthcare, including costly medicines, pushes a significant number of Filipinos to poverty, discourages them from seeking the appropriate medical treatment, leads to drug and medicine resistance, as well as endangers lives, thereby increasing the morbidity and mortality rates across the different socio-economic classes,” the order read.
“There is a need to revisit and update existing policies to improve access to healthcare including the affordability and accessibility of drugs and medicines, and formulate both short-term and long-term measures that are sensitive to stakeholders,” it added.
The order noted that the MRP and MWP shall apply to the selected medicines currently registered with the Food and Drug Administration.
The maximum retail price will be imposed on all public and private retail outlets, including drug stores, hospitals, hospital pharmacies, convenience stores, and supermarkets.
The maximum wholesale price will be imposed on manufacturers, wholesalers, traders and distributors.
“No public or private entity will be allowed to sell, reimburse or demand from the public or patients payment in an amount higher than the MRP or MWP as the case may be,” the order read.
The list of drugs covered by the price cap will be subject to review by the health and trade departments within six months.
The President has also directed DOH, in consultation with concerned government agencies, to study and propose “measures including but not limited to pooled procurement, price negotiation and other mechanisms, that will influence the supply, demand and expenditure on drugs and medicines.”
The order signed by the President Monday will take effect upon publication in the Official Gazette or a newspaper.
In a press briefing, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said:“With the limited ability of many Filipinos to support even their basic needs, how can they even pay for expensive medications which could amount to P5 million to treat cancer, for example? 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.”
But drug manufacturers and the pharmaceutical industry had expressed they would suffer, including the possible downsizing in the number of employees, however, Duque said as patients are given better access to affordable medicine, companies will have to cater to more consumers.
“They will get more customers, they will have lower profit but they will gain expanded volume of customers so they can gain back their profitability but what’s important to us is that such high quality of medicine would benefit more Filipinos,” the secretary added.
The Department of Health has already submitted its recommendation to the Office of the President to expand the scope of medicines subject to MDRP to include 122 additional medicines.
The department will require all establishments in the pharmaceutical industry to display a list of the new prices, which will later be issued by the health department.
“We will immediately issue an Administrative Order to ensure the effective implementation of the EO on MDRP and disseminate the implementing guidelines to stakeholders,” Duque said.
The health secretary also warned manufacturers who will not comply with the order. “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,” Duque warned. (With a report from Betheena Kae Unite)