DOH seeks price cuts on 120 prescription drugs

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 27) – The Department of Health (DOH) is seeking reductions in the prices of drugs for leading chronic diseases in the country such as major cancers, hypertension, neonatal illnesses, cardiovascular disease, chronic lung diseases and diabetes in a bid to ease the financial burden of medicines on Filipino patients.

Health Undersecretary Rolando Domingo said in a briefing on Thursday that the DOH wants to impose maximum drug retail prices (MDRP) on 120 drugs to make them affordable, pursuant to the Cheaper Medicines Act of 2008 (Republic Act 9502). The proposed list of drugs will be submitted to the Office of the President soon, Domingo said.

“High prices of medicines undermine the health of millions of Filipinos. Poor and middle-income families are especially vulnerable to being trapped in the vicious cycle of poverty, inequality, and debt because of the high cost of healthcare. We need to impose the MDRP if we want better health and societal outcomes for Filipinos,” Domingo added.

The list also includes costly treatments for chronic renal disease, psoriasis, and rheumatoid arthritis upon the request of several patient organizations and medical societies.

Dr. John Wong, Drug Price Advisory Council chairman, said the aim of the suggested price cut was for the country to be at par with other Southeast Asian countries and Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development countries, noting that currently, the worth of medicines and drugs here are “even higher than developed countries.”

The council also considered drugs which are offered by firms with only two to three competitors in the market.

He said the proposal, if approved by the President, will still be “fair” to pharmaceutical companies.

The advisory committee, which is composed of independent technical experts from various disciplines such as epidemiology, clinical medicine, economics, law, drug policy, and competition policy, was tapped in August 2018 to create the list of prices of selected medicines.