Projected rebound of PH pharma at risk — PHAP

Published May 6, 2021, 8:00 AM

by Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat

The domestic pharmaceutical and healthcare industry has been forecasted to rebound this year with a 5-6 percent growth from a negative 11 percent in 2020, but initial results are not actually looking good, according to a top industry leader.

Dr. Beaver Tamesis, president of the Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines (PHAP) said at the Wednesday Roundtable at Lido the P270-billion industry was initially projected to grow 5-6 percent this year. 

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“Given the pandemic, the initial forecast last year for 2021 is we may return to some growth of 5 to 6 percent,” he said. But Tamesis said that the way things are going on, “It’s not looking very good. We had to go into lockdown again, limited patients admitted to hospitals and capacity at 40 percent. Still a touch and go for the rest of the year,” he said.

Contrary to the idea of the pharmaceutical and healthcare industry raking in profits because of the health crisis, Tamesis said “We shrink quite a bit in 2020 by over 11 percent and counting  at one point because of the pandemic people are so afraid to go to the hospital. So, really our business suffered in 2020, contrary to what everybody else thinks.”

According to Tamesis, the only part of the hospital that are loaded are the COVID floors but the rest of the hospitals are near empty. “We’re only operating at 40 percent capacity for the non-COVID cases,” he said.

The only segment of the industry that grew in 2020 was the over-the-counter medicines especially vitamins but not the antibiotics and the in-patient required drugs, which went down the drain, said Tamesis.

“Some are okay but the majority of our business is in the dumps,” he added.  

With the industry situation, Tamesis said that another round of price control under the Maximum Drug Retail Price (MDRP) will not do good for the industry and will certainly force companies to do some restructuring to stay afloat.

“If you again will be going to price controls, that will impose a lot of hardship for the industry and will force a lot of restructuring, will force a lot of rethinking  about how we do business n the country,” he said.

“Price control does not help. We are in the middle of advocating for sustained measure of pool procurement,” he said noting they would like a system of government procurement that would predict demand at a particular price in a more sustainable manner. 

“But to suddenly impose price controls that will drive a lot of companies to rethink their businesses,” he added.

Already, companies are revisiting the role they play in the market and to realign expanses and how to deliver their commitments to ensure uninterrupted drug supply to the Philippines. 

On the issue of counterfeit medicines in the country, Tamesis said he has not read yet the US Trade Representative tagging the Philippines as among sources of counterfeit medicines but noted that in 2020 they have reports of a seizure of P20 million worth of fake medicines.