Sen. Roxas statement on Cheaper Medicines bill passage delay

Tuesday, December 18, 2007 | posted in , , , , | 0 comments

Senator Mar Roxas said he was disappointed that the House has failed to pass before Christmas a bill to lower local prices of medicines, despite assurances to do so in the previous Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council meeting.

"Ikinalulungkot ko na hindi ito maisasabatas bago pa ang Pasko. Kahit ipasa man ito sa House ngayon o bukas, hindi na ito makaka-bicam at mara-ratify bago mag-break. Huli na masyado," Roxas, sponsor of SB 1658 or the Quality Affordable Medicines bill, which was passed on final reading at the Senate last November 5, lamented.

"By the time Congress reconvenes, it will be another month. Sana maaga itong naipasa sa mababang kapulungan para naisabatas bago ng Pasko," he added.

Despite the setback, the Senate Trade Committee Chairman said, "Ngunit ang mahalaga ay maipasa pa rin ito. Mas maganda sana before Christmas, pero kung after Christmas, okey na rin, basta maipasa natin ito."

As of early afternoon, the House of Representatives has not passed its counterpart to Roxas' bill, despite an initial commitment at the start of the 14th Congress last July to pass the bill in 45 days. When this was not accomplished, the House targeted the bill's passage and bicameral approval before Christmas.

The Liberal Party President also noted how Congress also had to deal with bicameral talks for the 2008 budget. The Quality Affordable Medicines bill had been certified by the President as urgent in the last Congress and in the 14th Congress, and was named a priority measure during the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council last December 11.

The measure has been Roxas' major advocacy even during his time as Trade Secretary, when he negotiated for trade concessions to be granted to developing countries under the Trade Related Intellectual Property System (TRIPS) international agreement. First among SB 1658's provisions are the proposed amendments to the Intellectual Property Code which seek to allow the parallel importation of locally patented drugs and to allow generic manufacturers to test, register, produce patented drugs prior to patent expiry, among others.

The bill also recommends strengthening the Bureau of Food and Drug to serve as a counterfoil to attempts to bring in fake or substandard medicines by allowing BFAD to retain its operating income from fees and other charges so it could upgrade its facilities and beef up its human resources.

The bill also contains provisions allowing the President to impose drug price ceilings in times of calamity, public health emergencies, events that cause artificial and unreasonable price hikes, the prevalence of illegal price manipulation and whenever prevailing prices have risen to unreasonable levels.

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Kevin Ray N. Chua

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