Free, not cheaper, medicines for the poor– Loren

March 11, 2010

Free medicines for the poor, and substantial and sweeping drug price cuts for the rest.
Sen. Loren Legarda announced this advocacy after proclaiming that the much ballyhooed price reduction is “only good in television.”
Legarda said that in her political sorties all over the countries, she was swamped by complaints that prices of medicines, including the essential life-saving items, remain high despite the passage of Cheaper Medicine Act (RA 9502).
This is because the law is a watered-down version as a result of the stiff opposition of another vice presidential candidate who now has the gall of going around town to say that drug prices are down due to his effort, she said.
Loren said that many people in the provinces approached her with drug prescriptions and asked for help because they could not afford to pay for the high prices of the medicines needed by their sick relatives.
But, she immediately added, the provincial government in Bukidnon has free medicine and free hospitalization program for the poor.
“If Bukidnon can do it for the poor, why not in other places of the country?,” the senator said.
Legarda said she believes the government can afford not just free medicines but also free in-services in hospitals because there are enough government funds if only there is no graft and corruption.
The senator said she also supported the original maximum retail price scheme on medicines of the House version of the cheaper medicine law, as sponsored by former congressman and now Iloilo Vice Gov. Rex Suplico and later espoused by Rep. Ferjenel Biron, which will benefit the non-indigents. She filed a senate counterpart bill adopting the scheme.
Suplico and, later, Biron, proposed automatic price regulation for basic medicines, which would have brought down the price of 1,500 items in the Philippine National Drug Formulary. So far, they stressed, the emasculated cheaper medicine law only reduced the price of 22 items, although the Health department, in an independent move, seeks to cut the price of 25 more.
Biron and Suplico clarified that Sen. Mar Roxas only filed a bill (SB 101) seeking amendments to the intellectual property law which would result in parallel importation of medicines, AND which would have benefited multinational drug companies.