Roxas: Now the real work begins

Given the assured passage of the Quality Affordable Medicines Act on or before Labor Day, Senator Mar Roxas, principal sponsor and author of the bill, challenged the executive branch to come up with a concrete action plan for its effective implementation.

I thank House Speaker Prospero Nograles and the House panel headed by Palawan Rep. Tony Alvarez for agreeing to deal with the issue of ‘generics-only’ prescriptions in a separate bill. The Quality Affordable Medicines bill can now become a law, with no hurdles left to its passage,” said Roxas, co-chair of the bicameral panel for the bill.

With our decade-long struggle to turn this into law over, we can now focus our energies on a concrete national action plan to bring medicine prices down,” he added.

Roxas, during his time as Trade Secretary in 2000, was a main proponent for amendments to the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), which allowed for concessions to developing countries such as the easing of patent restrictions, a major aspect of the Quality Affordable Medicines bill. The measure had already been passed by the Senate in the 13th Congress, but a quorum problem in the House prevented its enactment then.

The senator proposed a P1-Billion Special Fund to purchase quality drugs from India as a way to jumpstart the implementation of the forthcoming landmark law. He cited the growing number of Filipinos suffering from hypertension and diabetes as examples of specific ailments that require expensive daily maintenance medicines.

Parallel importation of life-saving medicines would benefit millions of ailing Filipinos. This is one way of giving back to the people what the government collects by way of taxes,” he said.

Roxas pushed for 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.

With the present condition of high prices, poor families are forced to choose between medicines and food. We need to push for the effective implementation of this law to enable them to save money and maintain good health by bringing in more affordable medicines,” Roxas said.

The Liberal Party President urged the Department of Health to lay the groundwork for an Affordable Medicines Summit participated by local and national government officials, the business sector and other stakeholders.

It is our duty as lawmakers to oversee the executive’s actions, to ensure that our new law is taken full advantage of and that its noble intentions are actually felt by the public,” Roxas said.

The Quality Affordable Medicines Act will also strengthen the Bureau of Food and Drugs 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 measure also allows for the imposition of price regulation of medicines, as an option in case the free market by itself is unable to bring down prices. This would be implemented by the President, upon the recommendation of the Secretary of Health. An initial P25-million appropriation is also set for such implementation.

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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.

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