Press Release
June 3, 2008


Senator Mar Roxas welcomes the signing of the Affordable Medicines bill on June 6 while urging different sectors to unite behind its effective implementation.

"At long last, the Affordable Medicines bill will be signed and implemented. This is cause for celebration because it was a tough battle to even have this law passed. I thank my colleagues in both chambers of Congress for uniting behind this landmark health measure," he said. The senator received an invitation today from the Office of the President to attend the bill's formal signing to be held in Sta. Cruz, Laguna on Friday.

To drum up public support for the law's implementation, Roxas has scheduled several briefings with various stakeholder groups and local leaders to present to them how the Universally Accessible Cheaper and Quality Medicines Act could be used to bring down prices of medicines.

"Passing the law is just a first step. The real victory lies in having quality affordable medicines sold in different outlets nationwide. This requires political will on the part of the government and the all-out support of civil society and the private sector," said Roxas, chief advocate and principal sponsor of the medicines bill.

"I am proud that our generation has taken bold steps to break the hold of wealthy pharmaceutical companies over the drug market. But our fight isn't over because special interests groups may still try to impede or derail the effective implementation of this law," he added.

The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Trade and Commerce said private entities like retail chains and private hospitals can help bring in more affordable medicines by bulk ordering such medicines from the Philippine International Trading Corp. (PITC). If they have the resources, they may also opt to conduct parallel importation of such medicines by themselves, provided they get the necessary licenses from the Department of Health (DOH)-Bureau of Food and Drugs (BFAD).

He also said local government units, nongovernment organizations, people's organizations and labor groups, among other groups, may also pool their resources and order medicines from PITC, which they can sell or distribute to their constituents or members. This would also require registration with DOH-BFAD.

"Kung pagsasama-samahin natin ang ating resources, matutulungan natin ang gobyerno na magdala ng de-kaledad at abot-kayang gamot dito sa bansa natin. Lalabas din na mas mura kung maramihan (If we pool our resources, we could help the government bring quality and affordable medicines into our country. It would always be cheaper when in bulk)," he said.

Roxas also said the law also adopts the "early working doctrine," wherein generic drug companies can begin testing, producing and registering drugs even prior to expiry of a patent. With this, local manufacturers can now start to identify patented drugs that are near-expiry and start developing more affordable generic versions.

"This provision will help our local generics industry plan and start developing quality and affordable generic drugs early on, so they can distribute these on day one of the expiry of patents," he said, noting that it normally takes two or three years after a patent expires before generic counterparts to be made available.

"And with the 'no new use' clause, local generics firms can now develop generic drugs with certainty that patents will not anymore be unduly extended," he added.

Roxas noted, for instance, that the patent for amlodipine besylate, otherwise known as Norvasc, expired in June 2007, but it still has no generic equivalent.

"It's been over a year since the patent for the Norvasc drug expired, but our generics companies are still doing the preliminary work before the generic version of amlodipine besylate can be sold. This extension of monopoly and extension of higher prices will no longer happen with the Affordable Medicines Act signed into law," he said.

Roxas also said the new law will also allow the government to use existing patents even without the consent of the patent holder, when a health emergency is determined.

"Before this amendment on government use, it would have taken the government too long to act on outbreaks or epidemics, such as the threat of SARS and bird flu. If something like this strikes, the government can now fully and immediately exercise its duty of ensuring the health of its people," Roxas said.

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