Mar Roxas on Health

Tuesday, July 31, 2007 | posted in , , , |

The Problem

Costly Medicines: Many Filipinos has been suffering and dying because of not being able to buy the medicines needed for their family members. Prices of medicines in the Philippines remains among the highest in the region - including the 11 vital drugs that each Filipino should have access to. Unfortunately, despite the passage of Mar Roxas' Universally Accessible Quality and Cheaper Medicines Act of 2008, the Arroyo government has not been able to allocate P10 billion on top of the budgets of various agencies implementing the Cheaper Medicines Act. This makes these agencies unable to implement the said measure despite the law and its Implementing Rules and Regulations.

Neglected Botika ng Bayan: After Roxas' term ended in the Department of Trade and Industry, the then newly-opened Botika ng Bayan stores, whom he envisioned to sell cheaper medicines for the people, upped the prices, dismaying the public and prompting them to go back to buying their medicines from big pharmacies that sold expensive drugs.

Mar Roxas' Action

Quality and Cheaper Medicines: Roxas, being the principal author of Republic Act 9502, also known as the Universally Accessible Quality and Cheaper Medicines Act of 2008, that would bring down the cost of medicines in the Philippines by allowing "parallel importation" of patented medicines from other countries where these are more affordable; prohibiting the grant of new patents based only on newly-discovered uses of a known drug substance; allowing local generics firms to test, produce and register their generic versions of patented drugs, so these can be sold right upon patent expiry; giving the President the power to impose price ceilings on various drugs, upon the recommendation of the Secretary of Health; and strengthening the Bureau of Food and Drugs (BFAD) in order for it to ensure the safety of medicines.

Allow LGUs to use funds to import Cheaper Medicines: Roxas wants to let the Department of Budget and Management to allow local government units (LGUs) to use its funds to purchase quality and affordable medicines directly from the Philippine International Trading Corp.

Barangay Health Corps: Roxas wants address the need to bring quality health services to the barangay level. In the Senate, he has filed the Senate Bill No. 3012, or the proposed Barangay Health Workers Act of 2009, that seeks to appoint at least five (5) barangay health workers in each of the country's 41,994 barangays. To ensure that they are qualified, Roxas wants to let them be duly-accredited by the municipal or city health board in accordance with guidelines set by the Department of Health (DoH).

More Botika ng Bayan: Roxas wants to let the government and the private sector to invest in establishing drugstore outlets accessible to all 45,000 barangays so that quality and affordable medicines to be truly accessible to the poor.

Mar Roxas' Record

Record of Advocacy: Cheaper medicines has been Roxas' major advocacy even during his time as Congressman in the House of Representatives where, against pressure from different interests, particularly multinational drug companies, he fought for the right of every Filipino to quality affordable medicines, a personal advocacy adopted since the death of his brother from a lingering illness at the young age of 32.

This crusade was founded on the Presyong Tama, Gamot Pampamilya program, launched during his tenure as Trade and Industry Secretary, which benefited millions of Filipinos direly in need of effective, low-cost medicines. During his stint in the DTI, he negotiated for trade concessions to be granted to developing countries under the Trade Related Intellectual Property System (TRIPS) international agreement. In the Senate, the crusade continued with Roxas’ authorship of Republic Act No. 9502, or the Universally Accessible, Cheaper and Quality Medicines Act of 2008, signed into law in June 7, 2008.

Roxas is now fighting for the proper implementation of the law, and considers the Senate’s approval of a P1-billion budget in 2009 for the parallel importation of cheap medicines in 2009 as an important step in that direction.

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About The Blogger
Kevin Ray N. Chua

Kevin Ray N. Chua is a 19 year-old blogger from Cebu City, Philippines and an IT Student at Cebu Institute of Technology.

He is currently the Secretary General of the CIT-SSG.

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