Press Release
April 24, 2006

Filed bills to regularize drug prices in the country and make it more affordable

Senator Manny Villar, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance, together with many affected Filipinos expressed alarm over the seemingly consistent rising prices of medicines or prescription drugs in the country.

"Many reports have cited that compared to other developing nations, the medicines in our country are really priced much higher. Likewise, many disgruntled Filipinos, particularly patients have filed complaints that hospitals and even drug stores offer different prices for the same medicines. We should once and for all correct these discrepancies," says Villar, President of the Nacionalista Party.

At the height of the controversy over the overpricing of medicines by multinational pharmaceutical firms last year, Villar called on the Department of Health (DoH) through Senate Bill 2078 to undertake audit of drug retail prices in the country and publishing results thereof in a regular pharmaceutical market retail store audit report as part of DoH's standard operating procedure.

Villar cites on his bill, "We should establish a long-term solution to regularize drug prices in the country by providing power to DoH as the government agency mandated to approve licenses of retail drug stores in the country. It should monitor price movement of drugs sold in retail stores."

On top of this, Villar also filed bills to ensure that Filipinos would have easy access to affordable medicines. Senate Bill 602 or the so-called Free Medicine for the Poor Act seeks to establish a free medical assistance program for the poor to be administered by the Department of Health (DoH) in coordination with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

"Medicine purchases account for 40%-45% of the total health expenses of Filipinos. Thus giving free or subsidized medicines is really a big help, considering that prices of medicines in the country is one of the highest in the region already. The lowest-paid government worker earns P300 daily, if he contracts tuberculosis (TB), it would cost him more than P200 to buy medicines for it," further cites Villar.

Senate Bill 606 or the Botica sa Barangay Act seeks for the establishment of drug stores in every barangay especially in barangays with more population and poverty incidence. "Drugstores are very far and between in barangays outside the town or city proper, thus people who reside in these areas do not have access to basic drugs and medicines when they need them. Based on statistics, there are only about 8,000 barangay health stations to server the country's nearly 41,000 barangays," adds Villar.

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