Senator Migz Zubiri said he is seriously considering amending the Quality and Affordable Medicines Act with the creation of a Drug Price Regulatory Board to reduce prices of drugs in the country which has one of the highest prices in the world.
“Our direct experiences show how medicines are generally out of reach of the ordinary citizens. Imagine millions of poor Filipinos foregoing treatment because they cannot buy the drugs.” Zubiri co-chairs the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on Quality Affordable Medicines.
“We cannot continue with business-as-usual. We should regulate prices. There is just no other way about it, if we want to make drugs affordable. We shall regulate prices, in addition to aggressive government importation, pooling of purchases of small drugstores to avail of discounts, and stocking rural health centers with low-cost drugs,” the legislator explained.
“The Committee will seriously look into the opportunity to buy low-cost drugs from China, India and Singapore. We will also ensure that we get the expanded list of drugs to be covered by the Maximum Drug Retail Price (MRDP) program.”
The lawmaker recommended, and to which Health Secretary Paulyn Jean Rosell-Ubial agreed, to adopt the list of medicines proposed by patient groups, for the following: for cancer, end-stage renal disease, biologics for psoriasis & lupus, vaccines for pneumococcal & flu, hypertension, diabetes, arthritis, asthma & COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).
With personal testimonies of Senate employee Realyn Garces (breast cancer stage 2-A) and actor Derek Dee (Hepatitis C), the senator recommended the addition of drugs for breast cancer and Hepatitis C.
“We shall get the expanded list by July 27 this year and the Oversight Committee will strictly monitor the implementation of MDRP Phase 2,” Zubiri stressed.
The Committee meets once every quarter, but will consider more meetings as needed and demanded by consumers and patient groups, Zubiri said.
Major drugstore chains, the Department of Trade & Industry, the Food and Drug Administration, The Pharmazone-Philippine International Trading Corp., the Intellectual Property Office and the Board of Investments also participated in the hearing.