By Ben Rosario
Senior administration congressmen welcomed Tuesday moves by both President Duterte and the pharmaceutical industry to lower the cost of medicines, but remained convinced that legislative measures should still be pursued to further reduce and maintain lower prices.
Reps. Joey Sarte-Salceda (PDP-Laban, Albay) and Alread Vargas (PDP-Laban, Quezon City) said the signing of an executive order (EO) setting the maximum drug retail prices (MDRP) is a move in the right direction toward ensuring cheaper medicines.
Salceda, chairman of the House committee on ways and means, slammed claims made by pharmaceutical firms that the MDRP will result in higher prices, stressing that this is a “necessary first step” for lower-priced medicines.
“The MDRP is not a cure-all. It’s a good basic rule. But the MDRP should be coupled with other bargaining mechanisms to ensure that we really deliver affordable medicines to the poor,” he said.
Salceda filed House Bill (HB) No. 6219 or the Cheaper Medicines for All Act which contains provisions that will guarantee the further reduction of prices of vital medicines.
“That’s why under the Cheaper Medicines for All Act, I am proposing a combination of price caps, bulk pricing, bargaining by the State, and wider use of generics,” he said.
Nevertheless, the House official lauded the proposal of the Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines to adopt “bulk procurement and price negotiation as the more sustainable and beneficial approach” to purchasing medicines.
The proposal is in response to President Duterte’s EO which sets price caps for around 150 drugs for various diseases.
Meanwhile, Vargas lauded Duterte for issuing the MDRP EO which will also ensure a lower cost for major cancer medications.
“Not everyone has the means to pay for treatment, and sadly, this is the case for the majority of Filipinos,” Vargas noted.
Vargas also called for the full implementation of Republic Act No. 11215, or the National Integrated Cancer Control Act (NICCA), which aims to provide affordable and accessible treatment, especially for lower-income cancer patients, to prevent cancer-related deaths.
“The National Integrated Cancer Control Act and its Implementing Rules and Regulations and already in place, but the law has yet to receive funding. There needs to be an initial funding from the government to jumpstart the implementation of the law,” he said.
Vargas said that according to the Philippine Cancer Facts and Estimates of the Department of Health, there are 11 new cases and nine deaths every hour for adult cancer and eight deaths per day for childhood cancer in the Philippines. There are also an estimated 110,000 new cancer cases and over 66,000 cancer deaths per year.