The Trade Department proposed the consolidation of medicine purchases by private importers to bring down the cost of drugs in the country.
Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez floated the proposal during a meeting with the Health Department to discuss if the imposition of suggested retail price or national disaster retail price would help lower medicine prices.
“We still don’t know if we can unilaterally impose SRP or NDRP on medicines, but we believe there should be a system [that will reduce prices of medicines],” he said during the yearend briefing with reporters.
He said the department was studying why medicines in the Philippines were still more costly than in other countries.
“While we understand that manufacturers may still be at a stage where they are still recovering the research and development cost of the medicines, the prices should be equal in all markets where these medicines are present,” he said.
The government was worried that setting price controls could prompt the manufacturers to pull out medicines from the local market as was the case with other consumer products in the past.
The Trade Department said that based on its investigation, the latest importation of a certain breast cancer medication at significant volume came in at a more affordable procurement rate of P13 million compared to P38 million that a hospital spend to import the same medicine at a lower volume.
“This means that we can buy these important medicines at cheaper price if we just pool the demand,” Lopez said.
The technical working group on drugs created by the Health Department was open to the suggestion and the proposal to impose SRP or NDRP.
Lopez suggested a price cap at private hospitals and clinics that are selling medicines at prohibitive prices.
Data showed that per capita consumption of medicine in the Philippines was about P60,000, lower than P211,000 in other countries. The price difference represents the subsidy other governments provide as assistance to their constituents, according to Lopez.
“That’s why their prices are way cheaper than ours. If we want to have that kind of pricing mechanism, the government should also provide subsidy which we estimate would cost the government P4 billion, something that the annual budget cannot afford,” Lopez said.
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