Government urged to procure medicines to lower prices

INSTEAD of capping prices of medicines, the government was urged to make bulk purchases of medicines to lower prices.

In a statement issued Friday, November 22, the Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association of the Philippines (PHAP) said it would be better for the Department of Health to procure the medicines and sell these to government hospitals.

"The DOH should consider making hospitals as a major outlet of medicines. We have been making medicines available to the government at very low prices through bulk procurement and we are committed to keep doing this," PHAP executive director Teodoro Padilla said.

"The government has been effective in implementing bulk procurement to bring down medicine prices. Bulk procurement and price negotiation with pharmaceutical companies are important provisions that must be maximized and expanded to lower medicine prices," he added.

Padilla noted that an anti-cholesterol tablet sells in a government hospital for only P0.35 but sells for as high as P71.55 in private hospitals and P33.75 in retail outlets.

A tablet for hypertension is sold for only P0.19 in a government hospital compared to P38.50 in pharmacies.

"The list could go on. Our point is that price reduction has been happening and the benefits could be expanded," Padilla said.

He said the government should consider this instead of relying on the maximum drug retail prices (MDRP) policy provided by the Cheaper Medicines Act of 2008, or Republic Act 9502).

"Price control shifts the burden of buying medicines back to the individual Filipino patients," said Padilla.

This was the second time that the PHAP brought up the proposal for the government to buy in bulk as it continued to oppose the plan of the DOH to impose the MDRP on at least 120 drugs used to treat leading diseases and catastrophic conditions in the Philippines.

The first was when PHAP said it would be better if pharmaceutical companies operating locally will just reduce their medicine prices substantially, while also providing holistic and comprehensive assistance to patients during the entire treatment, from diagnosis, to treatment, and to monitoring.

The DOH has already thumbed down the proposal saying it would be difficult for the government to simply rely on PHAP and its member-companies to reduce their drug prices but would not have control over hospitals, drugstores, and pharmacies on how they will be mark up their products. (HDT/SunStar Philippines)