Drug makers vow price cuts

PHAP seeks teamup with government hospitals

Some 18 multinational pharmaceutical companies operating in the Philippines are offering to reduce their medicine prices substantially to help the public cope with rising health care costs.

Drug makers vow price cuts
WITHIN REACH. In this file photo, a woman holds up a handful of pills and tablets at a local pharmacy. Filipinos would be able to cope with rising health care costs following a proposal by the Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines to reduce the price of medicines it sells to government hospitals, which in turn could sell them cheaply to the public.
“We will announce these initiatives as soon as we work out the partnership details with the Department of Health [DOH],” said Teodoro Padilla, executive director of the Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines.

READ: PHAP vows to help DOH bring down medicine prices

Aside from lowering the price of medicine —by as much as half off a certain kind of cancer drug—the group is also looking for ways to help prevent diseases, Padilla said.

In a meeting with Health Secretary Francisco Duque and patient organizations early this week, PHAP said its members are offering to reduce prices for medicines that address major non-communicable diseases, infectious diseases and rare disorders.

“The DOH secretary is doing his best to look for ways to lower health care costs of Filipino patients. We support the DOH objective. We, in the private sector, are reaching out as a government partner so we may find the best solution to the current health care gaps, and for patients and their families to fully benefit,” Padilla said.

At the moment, he said Filipino patients pay about 54 percent of their own health care costs compared to only 12 percent in Thailand, 38 percent in Malaysia, and 37 percent in Indonesia.

The government’s share in medicine expenditure is 91 percent in Thailand, 54 percent in Malaysia, and 14 percent in Indonesia, but Padilla did not specify how much was the Philippines’ share.

He said the anti-diabetic drug metformin (500mg) sells for only P0.56 to P19 in government hospitals compared to P0.62 to P35 in private hospitals, and from P1.50 to P16.15 in retail outlets.

Losartan (100mg), which is for high blood pressure control, sells for P0.86 to P36 in government hospitals, P2.75 to P68 in private hospitals, and P8 to P34.50 in retail outlets, Padilla added.

Apart from straight price reductions on medicines, PHAP members are offering medicine assistance programs that offer patients holistic and comprehensive assistance from diagnosis, to treatment and monitoring.

Initially for cancer, the program may take the form of free or discounted medicine, support for lab testing and monitoring, patient education, online community support and capacity building for health care providers.

Under the proposed partnership, for example, patients with breast cancer may obtain up to 54 percent discount on a cancer drug, or free medicines on certain treatment cycles.

Padilla also urged the public to try to buy from government hospitals and pharmacies that have been found to have the lowest prices because they can pool their requirements and procure in volume.

“Government hospitals, not price control, are the solution in helping the public reduce their medicine costs. The issue that needs to be addressed is how to make supplies last and how to make them more available through other outlets,” he said.

Supply is a function of the Health department having the budget, he said, adding that Congress and the executive department still has time to address this issue, as the budget for next year has yet to be passed, the PHAP official said.

If government hospitals and pharmacies could offer more of these cheaper medicines to more people in more areas, the country would be able to somehow catch up with its neighbors in terms of health care participation, Padilla said.

Topics: medicine , Department of Health , Teodoro Padilla , Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines
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