Press Release
March 22, 2006


Senator Mar Roxas batted for more affordable prices of quality medicines during his speech before 3CPNet, a coalition of different non-government organizations, in a forum held yesterday at the Institute of Social Order in the Ateneo de Manila University.

The chair of the Senate committee on trade and commerce presented Senate Bill 2139, which proposes amendments to the Intellectual Property Code to lower the cost of medicines. The bill has already had several hearings and the committee report will be filed soon.

The senator noted that based on Philippine National Health Accounts, the average 2003 budget for health-related expenses for every Filipino is P1,600. He said that the high cost of medicines have made it difficult for seriously-ill Filipinos to buy maintenance medicines for ailments such as diabetes, hypertension, asthma, and other illnesses.

More and more, Filipino families have a difficult time coping with health emergencies due to financial constraints. It has come to a point that an ailing person would prefer to keep his or her illness a secret to avoid adding to the burden of the family, Senator Roxas lamented.

He said a number of indigent patients have accumulated debts due to the high cost of medicines that are needed to keep them alive.

In his speech, the senator cited as a permanent solution the need to amend the Intellectual Property Code in order to promote fair and healthy competition in the pharmaceutical industry.

We need to level the playing field on drug importation and manufacturing for our peoples benefit, Senator Roxas said.

Under the proposed measure, the importation of quality and affordable medicines from other countries would become legal. It would also help the public gain immediate access to generic medicines in the local market once the patent on a particular drug expires.

Likewise, the bill seeks to strengthen the capability of the government to import or manufacture a drug that is needed to deal with a major health crisis such as bird flu. Government officials engaged in parallel importation will also be protected from suits like the one filed by Pfizer against PITC and BFAD recently wherein Pfizer wanted a temporary restraining order issued against PITC and BFAD for the registration of the patented drug, Norvasc, for future sale after patent expiration.

Senator Roxas stressed that his amendments will result in the availability of affordable medicines in the local market with the same quality of branded medicines.

The senator explained the both generic and branded medicines undergo the same testing procedures required by the Bureau of Food and Drugs (BFAD).

This is a bill worth fighting for because it is for the benefit of every Filipino who has a right to quality and affordable medicines as part of our public health service, Senator Roxas said.

3CCPNet expressed its full support to the passage of SB 2139 also known as the Roxas Amendments to the IP Code to lower the price of medicines.

3CPNet is composed of the Institute of Philippine Culture, Ateneo de Manila University, Medical Action Group, Linangan ng Kababaihan, Inc., Zone One Tondo Organization, Sons of Charity Komisyon ng Kalusugan, Little Sisters of Jesus, and Sarilaya. It also supports the advocacies of allied NGOs such as Oxfam-Great Britain, Coalition for the Services of the Elderly, Samahang Botika Binhi para sa Kalusugan and Third World Network. The Philippine Medical Association had also expressed support to the bill.

Earlier, the World Health Organization, Department of Health, Department of Trade and Industry, Intellectual Property Office, Bureau of Food and Drugs, Philippine International Trading Company, the Philippine Chamber of Pharmaceutical Industry, and other international NGOs like Intellectual Property Left (Korea), Health Action International Asia Pacific (Sri Lanka), and Drug Action Forum Karnataka (India) have expressed full support for the Roxas Amendments to the Intellectual Property Code.

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