Press Release
December 6, 2008


The Senate approved this week a P1-billion budget for the Department of Health for the parallel importation of cheap medicines, an advocacy of Liberal President Senator Mar Roxas that finally saw realization under the Cheaper Medicines Act which he authored and shepherded into law this year.

Roxas said the P1-billion budget will be used to import 25 essential medicines to treat hypertension, diabetes, asthma and cancer, as well as antibiotics, at vastly cheap prices compared to those available in local drugstores and hospitals.

During the budget deliberations in the Senate floor Thursday, Roxas tasked the DoH to "aggressively" implement the law to prevent its being sabotaged by multinational pharmaceutical companies.

"The government must take a more active role in ensuring that our people will have the necessary medicine for their ailments. Siguradong haharangin ng mga multinational companies itong Cheaper Medicines Act, at dapat handa ang gobyerno rito (The multinationals will surely attempt to thwart the Cheaper Medicines Act, and the government should prepare for this)," said Roxas.

Roxas said the DOH must ensure that the medicines imported under the program, which he has been pushing since he was a congressman from Capiz, will not exceed the price ceilings as determined by the DoH.

"We will not use taxpayer money to buy expensive medicines when in fact the cheaper variety is available as provided for by the DoH," he said.

The Ilonggo senator received a commitment from the DoH it will have prepared by January 2009 a list of 25 essential medicines -- consisting of drugs to treat hypertension, diabetes, asthma and cancer, as well as antibiotics -- and their corresponding price ceilings.

The maximum prices determined are a result of meetings between members of the academe, the pharmaceutical industry, the Philippine Medical Association, the Drugstores Association of the Philippines and NGOs, among others. Under Republic Act No. 9502, the Cheaper Medicines Act, the Secretary of Health recommends the drug price ceilings for the President's approval.

"I am reassured that our people will soon have the protection from price gouging by unscrupulous drug companies. I take it upon myself to hold the DoH to its promise," Roxas said.

He warned that as a result of price ceilings, local providers may threaten or actually stop selling these important drugs, for which the DoH must be prepared.

"Before a pullout of important drugs can happen, the DoH should already aggressively import these, and have the capacity to manufacture these drugs through compulsory licensing, if needed," Roxas said, to which the DoH affirmed that it had the capacity to manufacture the drugs.

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