Bill to lower prices of medicine sought

February 08, 2020

THE implementation of the Universal Health Care Law should be supported by the availability of cheaper medicines, according to Albay Representative  Joey Salceda.

Salceda, author of House Bill 6219 or the Affordable Medicines, Medical Equipment and Supplies Act and  chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means, said the bill which he also  “called  Cheaper Medicines for All” is literally lifesaving and lifegiving, pro-poor and pro-person with disability.

Apart from bringing down the costs of medicine for all, the bill will also cap prices for necessary medical supplies such as wheelchairs and medical masks.
“Under the existing Cheaper Medicines Law, we were able to set a Maximum Drug Retail Price. Ang problema doon, the richest half of the population account for 65 percent of all expenditures on healthcare. And those under poverty line spend only 10 percent of health expenditures. Ibig sabihin, ang mahirap, hindi pa rin nakakabili ng gamot,” said Salceda,  citing data from the Family Income and Expenditure Survey for 2015.

“The MDRP helps those who can buy medicine in the first place. For those who cannot buy medicine, mahal pa rin basta mataas ang MDRP,” he added.

Under the  bill, the Secretary of Health will be able to negotiate prices of all medicines, medically-necessary assistive equipment, and medical supplies purchased by the government.

This will compel companies to price these products at lower prices if they want to sell medicine in the Philippines, since the government will be a single-payer system under Universal Health Care.

“Kung mahal kasi ang gamot, tapos hindi naman natin gagamitin ang bargaining power ng gobyerno, lolobo ang kailangan nating pondo para sa UHC. As Ways and Means Chair, it is my responsibility to ensure that priority programs are funded. That includes, whenever possible, lowering the price of government programs for the same quality of service,” Salceda pointed out.

“Yung MDRP kasi, while it sets essentially a price ceiling on the price of medicines, kung mataas naman yung MDRP, mataas pa rin yung kailangang bayaran. We should optimize the bargaining power of the state under a single-payer system.

“Under my bill, the state will be able to buy more medicines. That means we can give more medicine for free to the poor,” the solon said.