Editorial: Cheap medicine and the 99%

A MEDICAL prescription is something to be followed, not ignored. But for 99 percent of Filipinos given prescriptions, the prices of these medicines are just beyond their reach.

This is what Executive Order 104 signed by President Rodrigo Duterte last February intends to correct through the introduction of price caps on medicines. The new prices will take effect on May 18, 2020.

The setting of the price cap would have the effect of bringing down by as much as 58 percent the retail costs of 87 drug molecules or 133 drug formulas for hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, chronic lung disease and major cancer.

The EO hopes to change the mind and buying capability of the 99 percent of Filipinos who, according to a Pulse Asia survey in September 2019, do not buy all their prescription medicines because these are expensive. Will the number go down to 70 or 50 percent once the EO is implemented? Let’s hope so.

The same survey showed that 67 percent of those surveyed said they are able to buy medicines when prescribed with five different drugs for a month’s use. Of the 67 percent, only 33 percent said they will be able to buy for less than a week, 26 percent for one week and only 4 percent for two to four weeks.

When asked how much they were willing to spend for a month’s supply of medicines, 71 percent responded that they can spend or are willing to spend less than P1,000, while 24 percent are willing to spend up to only P5,000, the DOH report on the survey said.

To make medicine affordable and accessible, EO 104 or the “Improving Access to Healthcare Through the Regulation of Prices in the Retail of Drugs and Medicines” order imposes price regulation through a maximum retail price (MRP) or a maximum wholesale price (MWP) on these products.

Covered by the MRP will be “all public and private retail outlets, including drugstores, hospitals, and hospital pharmacies, health maintenance organizations, convenience stores and supermarkets, and the like.”

The MWP will be addressed to “all manufacturers, wholesalers, traders, distributors, and the like.”

Lourdes Maratas, Department of Health (DOH) 7 pharmacist, said sellers would have to post the list of reduced prices of the drugs on their premises. The DOH, Department of Trade and Industry and the Food and Drug Administration will monitor their compliance with the EO.

The test of the EO is in the bringing down drastically of the percentage of Filipinos who ignore prescriptions.