Roxas on Cheaper med law IRR: Now real work begins

Liberal President Senator Mar Roxas said yesterday that the real work begins to bring down medicine prices, after the signing last Tuesday of the implementing rules and regulations of Republic Act No. 9502, the Universally Accessible Cheaper and Quality Medicines Act.
One important challenge before us is to constantly keep vested interests at bay. We succeeded this far in passing the law and laying the ground for initial implementation. Those who wish to stop us will continue to find ways to keep the unjust situation of high-priced medicines,” stressed Roxas, principal author of the law, as he commended the government officials and civil society groups who were involved in the crafting of the rules for the Cheaper Medicines Law and having it signed on time.
Roxas said that for the law to have real meaningful impact in its first implementation stages, the government should allocate enough funds for it, particularly for the parallel importation of affordable medicines. He said, as part of his proposal to realign P100 billion of the 2009 budget, that at least P10 billion should be allotted on top of the budgets of various agencies implementing the Cheaper Medicines Act.

The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Trade and Commerce also said he would regularly convene the Quality Affordable Medicines Oversight Committee to check how the agencies are going about the implementation of the law.

In particular, the Ilonggo senator said the Bureau of Food and Drugs must “rise to the occasion” in ensuring the quality of medicines, after the scare of melamine in food products the past two months.
Mas malaki na ang pera na hawak ng BFAD para sa pagsiguro na ligtas ang gamot sa mga masasamang bagay. Kailangan maipakita ng BFAD ang mga pagbabago na sinisimulan na nila sa ahensya. Hinding-hindi na pwede itong business-as-usual na ugali pagdating sa kaligtasan ng ating taumbayan (The BFAD now holds more money to ensure the safety of medicines. The BFAD must show their planned changes within the agency. We can no longer have the business-as-usual attitude when it comes to the safety of our people),” he said.
The Cheaper Medicines Act, among other things, seeks to:

* Strengthen competition by amending the Intellectual Property Code to:

     o Allow the “parallel importation” of patented medicines from other countries where these are more affordable;
     o Prohibit the grant of new patents based only on newly-discovered uses of a known drug substance;
     o Allow local generics firms to test, produce and register their generic versions of patented drugs, so these can be sold right upon patent expiry (“early working principle”); and
     o Allow the government use of patented drugs when the public interest is at stake.

* Give the President the power to impose price ceilings on various drugs, upon the recommendation of the Secretary of health. These drugs include those for chronic illnesses, for prevention of diseases, and those in the Philippine National Drug Formulary (PNDF) Essential Drug List;

* Strengthen the Bureau of Food and Drugs (BFAD) in order for it to ensure the safety of medicines, by allowing it to retain its revenues--roughly P150 million every year--for upgrading of its facilities, equipment and human resources; and

* Ensure the availability of affordable medicines by requiring drug outlets to carry a variety of brands for each drug—including those sourced from “parallel importation”—to give the consumer more choices.

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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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