By Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat
Pharmaceutical firms yesterday urged the Department of Health (DOH) for transparency in coming up with the 50 percent reduction in prices on essential and life-saving medicines.
The Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines (PHAP) issued this call three days after the effectivity of Executive Order (EO) 104 or “Improving Access to Healthcare Through the Regulation of Prices in the Retail of Drugs and Medicines” that slashes by as much as 50 percent the Maximum Retail Price (MRP) of 87 medicines or 133 formulations effective June 2, 2020.
In a statement, the group of multinational pharmaceutical companies in the country asked the DOH and industry to “revisit the references, criteria for selection, bases and impact of the proposed price reductions for transparency, and come out with prices that balance the needs of patients with viability of medicine manufacturers.”
EO 104 mandates 50 percent reduction on the prices of medicines for top burden diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, breast, colorectal and lung cancers, chronic kidney disease, and asthma / chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
With the MRP, a diabetic patient on daily insulin glulisine spending ₱818.75 per pre-filled pen can now purchase his medication at ₱435.18. If he is a senior citizen, the law grants him a mandated 20 percent discount resulting in a final purchase price of ₱336.14— almost sixty percent in price deduction.
PHAP noted that the implementation of price cuts comes at a critical period wherein companies and the country must start economic recovery.
“The challenges in logistics, global competition for supplies, and stockpiling, have led to unforeseen and unplanned expenses impacting operations. From keeping manufacturing plants, warehouses, and retail stores open to chartering flights, the pharmaceutical and healthcare industry has taken and absorbed significant increase in expenses to the fullest extent possible, with deliberate and conscious effort to prevent prices from surging,” said PHAP.
With that, PHAP said that together with other industry associations, retail groups, and professional organizations, they had hoped that the government would consider deferring implementation of Executive Order 104, in light of the pandemic’s impact to the pharmaceutical and healthcare industry,
PHAP also reiterated its commitment to have a dialogue with the government to collaborate for sustainable approaches to make current medicines more accessible and affordable.
“In light of the current national calamity brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic that has caused unprecedented and massive economic impact to the entire country, we can also explore other sustainable approaches such as price negotiations, patient access programs and other measures under various laws so as not to further aggravate the setbacks that many companies like ours have endured these past months,” the group said.
As an industry that is in the forefront of developing medicines, vaccines and diagnostic tests for COVID-19, PHAP hopes the government can continue to establish an environment conducive to innovation.
“With the government’s help, we can ensure that research-based pharmaceutical companies can continue to be present in the Philippines, and re-invest into research and development to contain COVID-19, and fight any future pandemics,” said PHAP.
PHAP further expressed great concern about COVID-19 because of its immense impact on human lives and the economy.
PHAP and its members said they are doing their best in the fight against the pandemic in the country in three ways: 1) the research and development of medicines, vaccines and diagnostics; 2) helping ensure the uninterrupted supply of medicines despite global lockdowns; and 3) through our corporate social responsibility initiatives to help protect our frontliners.