The reduction of the retail prices of some 87 high cost medicines by up to 58 percent, Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III said, will propel the country towards Universal Health Care as he warned that violations of the price cap will be dealt with in accordance with the Cheaper Medicines Act and other relevant laws along with the Department of Trade and Industry and the Food and Drug Administration regulations.
In a statement issued on Tuesday, Duque said the lowering of prices will broaden the Health department’s agenda to make lives comfortable for all Filipinos.
“We are grateful for the support and genuine care of our President in looking out for the health of our people,” said Duque.
The DOH lauded the signing of Executive Order (EO) No. 104 on the Maximum Drug Retail Price by President Rodrigo Duterte.
The first EO on the imposition of Maximum Drug Retail Price was signed by former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in 2009. Duque was also the DOH secretary at that time.
Only five anti-hypertensive, anti-cholesterol, antibiotic, and anti-cancer medicines had been given maximum drug retail prices under Executive Order No. 821 series of 2009.
Duque said the DOH will immediately issue an Administrative Order to ensure the effective implementation of the EO on MDRP and disseminate the implementing guidelines to stakeholders.
The DOH submitted its recommendation to the Office of the President to expand the scope of medicines subject to MDRP to include 122 more medicines.
The proposed medicines address leading diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, chronic lung diseases, and major cancers.
The list also includes high-cost treatments for prematurity, chronic renal disease, psoriasis, and rheumatoid arthritis requested by patient and consumer organizations as well as several medical societies.
DOH, together with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and stakeholders, was also tasked to review the price reduction of the remaining 35 drugs to finalize the list covered by the EO.
Meanwhile, the ceiling prices for the 87 medicines (with 133 formulations) at the point of wholesale and retail will already be imposed in both public and private drug retail outlets including chain and independent drugstores, hospital pharmacies, health maintenance organizations and other outlets within 90 days.
The MDRP is still subject to special discounts to senior citizens and persons with disability.
In November 2019, DOH reported the results of the Ulat ng Bayan Survey conducted by Pulse Asia showing that ninety-nine percent (99%) of Filipinos do not buy all of their prescribed medicines because of unaffordable costs.
The survey also showed that seventy-one (71%) of Filipinos are only willing and able to spend less than P1,000 for a month’s supply of medicines, while only 24% are willing to spend up to P5,000 pesos.
“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? “ asked Duque.
He said ordinary Filipinos 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. All of us should be sincere in providing fair and affordable access to medicines. The health of our people is primordial over business interests,” he added.
Dr. Anna Melissa Guerrero, program manager of DOH’s Pharmaceutical Division, said the prices of some medicines in the country are even higher than in more developed European countries.
She said that in some cases, the price of medicines here could even go twice or thrice as much as higher than in other countries.
With the expanded MDRP, the price reduction on covered medicines could reach as high as 58%, she said.