Senator Roxas to DOH: Set maximum retail price of medicines

The Department of Health (DOH) can moderate prices of medicines and make vital drugs more affordable to the people as laid down by the provisions the new Cheaper Medicines law, Liberal President Senator Mar Roxas said today.

Roxas pointed out the Cheaper and Quality Medicines Act of 2008 gave the DoH the authority to establish maximum retail prices for important medicines, such as maintenance drugs, sold in pharmacies nationwide.
"Kailangang siguruhin ng DoH na maayos nitong maipatutupad ang batas. At dahil binigyan ito ng karapatang kontrolin ang presyo ng mga gamot na ibebenta sa mga botika, sana ay hindi ito magpadala sa mga lobbying o impluwensiya ng malalaking kumpanya ng gamot na tuloy-tuloy ang pagharang sa pagpapatupad ng batas (The DOH should make sure that it can properly implement the law. Since the law gave it the power to control prices of medicines, it should not be swayed by the lobbying of big drug companies who have always fought against the law)," he said.
He reminded the DoH that "the government is the representative of the people. The only people you must be fair to are the consumers of medicines" and not the big pharmaceutical farms who have been actively lobbying against the enactment and administration of the law.
"The big pharmaceutical companies can take care of themselves. They have their lawyers, accountants, lobbyists, so they can take care of themselves. Precisely the government is there, to balance out their interests, precisely in favor of the consumers," he said.
The Ilonggo senator said the DoH can set a maximum retail price for medicines prescribed in government hospitals and by public doctors.
"May kakayahan ang DoH na sabihin sa lahat ng government hospitals, you can only buy medicines that are within this price band. Tapos, dito sa Philhealth, mag-reimburse lang sila sa medicines that comply with this price band ng sa ganoon (The DoH can tell government hospitals to buy medicines only within this price band. It can also tell Philhealth to reimburse only medicines that comply with the set price band of the DoH), then the market power of the government can be used to moderate prices," he said.
He added medicines sold in Botika ng Bayan outlets nationwide should also be subject to the maximum retail price set by the health department.

The Ilonggo senator recalled that when during his stint as secretary of the Department of Trade and Industry he opened the Botika ng Barangay outlets, the prices of vital medicines were really very cheap.

However, after his term ended, he lamented the then newly-opened Botika ng Bayan stores upped the prices, dismaying the public and prompting them to go back to buying their medicines from big pharmacies that sold expensive drugs.
"Kaya parang nawala yung direksyon ng Botika ng Bayan (That was why the Botika ng Bayan seemed to have failed). For the system and the government to continue to allow the charging of expensive medicine is in the nature of qualified theft. We are allowing the taking of this money from poor people's pockets for what they can't afford, when in fact an equivalent but cheaper medicine is already available," he said.

"Marami sa mga sinasabi ng gobyerno ay propaganda lang. Mayroon ngang Botika ng Bayan, wala namang gamot, walang supply. Mayroong sinasabing ganito, ganoon, wala namang implementasyon. Kailangan nating kulitin, kalampagin ang gobyerno, para maisakatuparan itong Quality Affordable Medicines Law (Many of what the government is saying are mere propaganda. There maybe Botika ng Bayan outlets but many of these do not have medicines, they do not have supplies. They say one this and that but they're really not administering the law. That's why we have to rattle the government and demand that it properly implements the Quality Affordable Medicines law)," he said.

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