By Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat
The Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines (PHAP) has sought for collaboration with the government as it urged not to impose the second phase Maximum Retail Price (MRP) stressing this form of price control on life-saving medicines does not benefit the poor.
“We are reaching out to the government as a partner so that it does not have to resort to price control which could be contentious and counter-productive as other countries that tried it had found out. We can work together, achieve exactly the same or better objectives, and sustain it over the long haul,” said PHAP Executive Director Teodoro Padilla in a statement.
Padilla said that cheaper medicines are not enough because the poor, based on a study on the impact of the first round of Maximum Retail Price (MRP) in 2009, did not fully benefit from it.
PHAP issued this statement as the Department of Health (DOH) is trying to add at least 120 medicines for life threatening disease under the MRP list where prices cannot go beyond the maximum ceiling set by the government.
Once the second list or the MRP Part 2 is approved by President Duterte, there would be a total of at least 210 life-saving medicines the list. The first list of MRP contained 120 medicines. Under the MRP scheme, prices of selected medicines should have a mean price reduction of 56 percent from the prevailing market price.
The proposed MRP Part 2 list of 120 drugs covers conditions, such as hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular disease (CVD), chronic lung diseases, neonatal diseases and major cancers. The list also covers high cost treatments for chronic renal disease, psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis which were requested by several patient organizations and medical societies for inclusion in the price reduction efforts of the government.
The DOH believes that the medicines for inclusion in the MRP Part 2 are still being sold up to four times higher the international reference prices while the innovator branded products are 22 times higher, particularly those sold in pharmacies of private hospitals.
PHAP, which represents the research-based pharmaceutical and healthcare sector in the country, expressed its commitment to work with the Department of Health (DOH) to make medicines more affordable and widen healthcare services for Filipinos.
“We share the same objective with the Department of Health to lower medicine prices. We are exploring partnerships and we want to work hand in hand with the DOH in making quality medicines and healthcare services more accessible,” said Padilla.
Padilla said the industry would ask for a meeting with DOH Secretary Francisco Duque to harmonize their efforts in not just lowering medicine prices by up to 84 percent for various disease categories but also in ensuring that patients are supported throughout their journey.
*In the meeting with DOH, PHAP also aims to discuss existing high-impact patient assistance programs by individual PHAP members that give free screenings and diagnostic tests, education and counselling, and special medicine pricing for patients to lower total treatment cost. These patient assistance programs can serve as a framework for future expansion of the cooperation with the government, specifically in the areas of cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular, and chronic respiratory diseases among others.
According to PHAP, a price control or the MRP does not benefit the poor but rather strong health insurance systems.
“In other countries, from our neighboring countries such as Thailand and Singapore to as far as United Kingdom, they have strong health insurance systems to help their citizens cover for medicine and healthcare expenses that would have been taken from their own family’s savings,” Padilla said.
“If more resources are allocated for the health of the people, the poor will benefit which is the essence of Universal Healthcare,” he said.
Padilla added that provisions for (1) centrally negotiated procurement, (2) expansion of primary care drug benefit, (3) early access to innovative medicines, (4) special access schemes from the private sector, (5) health technology assessment, and (6) pooled procurement are tools available under the Universal Healthcare Law (Republic Act No. 111223) and the Cancer Control Act (Republic Act No. 11215) that could make medicines more accessible and affordable.
“There is no doubt that the government, with the help and cooperation of the private sector, will be able to solve this problem,” he said.
With PHAP’s opposition to the MRP 2, consumer group Laban Konsyumer, Inc. (LKI) has urged the DOH to implement the expanded list of medicines for leading diseases and catastrophic conditions.