Press Release
August 16, 2006


Sen. Mar Roxas yesterday sought the support of the Senate to his bill proposing amendments to the Intellectual Property Code of the Philippines that will finally open up access to quality, more affordable medicines to all Filipinos.

In a speech sponsoring the report of the Senate committees on trade and commerce and on health and demography, Roxas said the Senate has a solemn duty to correct the injustice of the high cost of medicines.

Roxas, who chairs the trade and commerce committee, is joined by Senator Pia Compañera Cayetano, chairperson of the Senate committee on health and demography, in sponsoring the proposed law, which carries to the floor the endorsement of 16 senators. Debates on the measure are expected to commence after his sponsorship speeches.

A consolidated version of Senate Bill 2139, principally authored by Roxas, Senate Bill 2263 seeks to:

1. Disallow another patent for new uses of an existing substance that has already been patented to enable generic drug manufacturers to copy off patent products immediately after expiration without fear of a lawsuit.

2. Allow parallel importation and international exhaustion of intellectual property rights for patents. Parallel importation refers to the importation, without the consent of the patent holder, of a patented product that is marketed in another country. On the other hand, international exhaustion of intellectual property rights refers to a regime where the supply and price of a product is moderated by competition, thereby increasing accessibility through the importation of the same branded and even patented but cheaply priced product. Both would allow the Philippines to shop around for a quality product with a good price.

3. Adopt the early working doctrine. The adoption of this doctrine would enable generic drug companies to experiment and test, for later regulatory approval, generic versions of patented drugs before their patents expire. With early working, generic companies could get ready to produce and sell generic versions of patented drugs upon the expiration of their patents.

4. Restructure provisions for government use and legal cover for government use. At present, the government is required to apply for a license before it can use patented medicines or processes for their manufacture. Senate Bill 2263 does away with this compulsory licensing requirement, making it easier and quicker for itself to respond to public health threats, such as avian flu, SARS, without fear of possible lawsuits from patent owners.

5. Provision for exemptions to the application of trademarks and tradenames laws in favor of parallel imports.

In seeking the support of his colleagues for the measure, Roxas recalled that there have been numerous efforts to address the problem of high drug prices, citing the Generic Drugs Act which Senators Aquilino Pimentel and Edgardo Angara co-authored; Senator Juan Ponce Enrile voted for; and Sen. Juan Flavier championed when he was Health Secretary. He also cited that part of the rationale for enacting the Retail Trade Liberalization Law was to open the door to greater competition among drug stores and pharmacies.

However, the senator said the efforts to address this problem have made such progress but sadly because of poor implementation, or inhospitable circumstances, or more venal collusion, these have not been enough to substantially make headway.

He described the countrys public health situation by citing the price differentials between the essential drug, Norvasc, which cost only P5 pesos in India but costs P44.75 at the Mercury Drug Store in Quiapo; a Ventolin inhaler, which has a tag of P231 in Bangkok, Thailand, but costs P406 in Manila; and Bactrim 400, which cost P17.75 in the Philippines but only P1.00 in Pakistan and P0.69 in India.

What is so special about Thailand, India, Pakistan and other countries across and beyond our region that they can offer these affordable medicines to their citizens while we Filipinos have to pay many more times for the same medicines? he asked.

When someone you love dies, its not political or economic, its personal. But for the poorest of the poorthose who could have saved their loved one if they only had the money to do soit goes beyond what is personal. It goes straight to the question of social justice, he added.

The Departments of Health and Trade and Industry, Intellectual Property Office, Bureau of Food and Drugs, Philippine International Trading Corporation, National Institutes of Health, World Health Organization, Philippine Medical Association, Philippine Nurses Association, Integrated Midwives Association of the Philippines, Philippine Chamber of the Pharmaceutical Industry, Third World Network, Cut the Cost, Cut the Pain Network, OXFAM Philippines, and the multi-sectoral coalition Ayos na Gamot sa Abot Kayang Presyo, or AGAP, are among the numerous government and non-government organizations that have expressed support for the bill.

News Latest News Feed