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President Arroyo's. The President has been fighting with drug companies since the beginning of her first term, nine years ago. It looks like she is sick of it, had enough of their continued non compliance with RA 9502, the Universally Accessible Cheaper and Quality Medicines Act of 2008. It was to be implemented as of April last year. But the drug companies like big profit, have never been satisfied with less than huge mark ups.
And almost all of there are foreign drugs that badly need rice money for Filipinos and their children out of this poor country into wealthy one to buy bling bling, one more SUV, monster flat screen TV or what ever.
She is tough. That is why they hate her. She will not allow them to buy their way out with bribes, make them comply with the law. It is amazing she has lasted so long. Yes, she is makunat, makulit, and much to the chagrin of her detractors, she is durable, matibay too!
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:20:00 07/17/2009
The country's pharmaceutical companies have until Saturday to propose a plan for voluntarily reducing medicine prices substantially, before President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signs an executive order imposing a maximum retail price, or MRP, on 22 "essential medicines.” That, at least, is the idea.
But while the deadline-10 days after the July 8 meeting between the President and representatives of the drug companies in Malacañang is old news, the statements issued by one of her spokesmen the other day are both new and upsetting. "The implications for economic health go beyond just the issue of cheaper medicines at hand," Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Gary Olivar told reporters. He pointed out that, under the law, the President was not "compelled or required" to set an MRP on specified medicines. Then he used, yet again, the argument from the top of the totem pole. "The President is responsible for [looking at] the big picture. Others who criticize her do not have that obligation."
Even Olivar's assertion of executive action sounds decidedly lame. "If the drug companies do not come out with a response she deems satisfactory, then we might expect her at that point to go ahead with the maximum price ceiling regime."
In fact, the issue is not cheaper medicines, or a satisfactory response, but political will. It is precisely because the chief executive bears overall responsibility, because she sits atop the teetering pole, that she must do the right thing.
Republic Act 9502, the Universally Accessible Cheaper and Quality Medicines Act of 2008, became law on April 29 last year, and took full effect last November, after it’s implementing rules and regulations were published. In other words, it has been more than seven months since the law should have driven medicine prices down. Nothing doing.
Provisions in the new law, however, empower the secretary of health, "when the public interest so requires to determine the maximum retail prices of drugs and medicines which shall be recommended to the President of the Philippines for approval."
Last month, Health Secretary Francisco Duque recommended that 22 drugs, belonging to categories specified in Section 23 of the law, be placed under a maximum retail price regime. Why? Because, he explained recently, "after seven months, the prices of expensive branded medicines did not go down."
The meeting with industry executives last week gave the drug companies some breathing room. We will find out soon enough if they are capable of meeting both the letter and the spirit of the new law with their counter-proposal. Duque explained the Palace strategy. "Ma'am [the President] said, "If you can do it on your own voluntarily, do it." "That is, if the drug companies can lower the prices of the 22 identified drugs by at least 50 percent, then there would be no need for the President to sign the executive order.
But the core issue is how much time the pharmaceutical companies really need to make cheaper medicines a reality. We agree with the Department of Health: Half a year after a controversial law's controversial IRRs were finalized seems like more than enough time for the drug companies to comply with the new law's mandate. In other words, it is high time the government enforced a key provision, and imposed a price ceiling on essential medicines.
It seems President Arroyo is reluctant to force the pharmaceutical industry to comply with the thrust of the law; in any case, she only has until Saturday to make up her mind.
But the problem with a voluntary plan, at this stage, is that it may all be too little, too late. How much will the actual reduction be, which medicines will be included, and-the crucial point-how long will the prices stay reduced? It is entirely conceivable that the reduction will be temporary, and temporary by design. Without a sharp-toothed executive order, what will prevent the drug companies from raising their prices anew, in three or six months?
The discount card scheme that the drug companies have proposed is essentially a loyalty program. In the light of the new law, the public can only view it as discriminatory. The purpose of the law is to make cheaper medicines available to all, not to a select, card-carrying few.