SENATOR Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go urged pharmaceutical companies to balance their interest between raking profit and providing affordable medicines to Filipinos as President Rodrigo Duterte signed Executive Order (EO) 104 on February 17, regulating the prices of select drugs sold in the country, including essential medicines most commonly prescribed to patients.
In an ambush interview during his visit to fire victims in Bulacan, Go said that now is the best time for pharmaceutical companies to offer affordable medicines, especially to poor Filipinos who badly need them.
“Ito ‘yung mga panahon na litung-lito sila, hindi nila alam saan sila hihingi ng tulong, nagmamakaawa. Ngayon, mayroon na kayong mga murang gamot. One hundred plus po ito, 133 po ito na mga murang gamot,” Go told reporters.
EO 104, or the “Improving Access to Healthcare through the Regulation of Prices in the Retail of Drugs and Medicines,” imposes Maximum Retail Price (MRP) and Maximum Wholesale Price (MWP) on “select drugs and medicines totaling to 86 drug molecules or 133 drug formulas” annexed to the order.
Among the drugs covered by EO 104 are those prescribed for hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, chronic lung diseases, neonatal diseases, major cancers, chronic renal diseases, psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis.
The EO also orders representatives from the Department of Health (DoH) and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to “convene and review” the prices of the remaining 36 drug molecules or 72 drug formulas previously proposed to be included in the MRP and MWP list.
“Karamihan po rito, ‘yung iniinom ng ating mga kababayang mahihirap talaga, ‘yung mga maintenance (medicines). Tulungan po natin ang ating mga pasyente, mga kababayan,” he said.
“Para sa akin, mga negosyante, maawa naman kayo sa ating mga kababayan. Tulungan n’yo naman po sila. Balansehin po natin ang lahat,” he added.
The EO was signed a few months after Go, the Chair of the Senate Committee on Health and Demography, vowed to personally discuss the matter with the President.
At the Senate session on November 5, Go stated that he would “suggest to the President the inclusion of all essential medicines in the proposed list of expanded MDRP (Maximum Drug Retail Prices) and for its immediate release to complement the Universal Health Care Law.”
On January 13, the Senator reiterated in a radio interview his support for the proposed policy. “Ako naman po ay nakikiusap sa mga kompanya, balansehin po natin ‘yung profit at saka kapakanan po at interes po ng bawat Pilipino at bawat pasyente,” he said.
Meanwhile, aside from providing cheaper medicines, Go also urged poor and indigent patients during his visit to seek government aid in the nearest Malasakit Center in their area which is a one-stop shop that streamlines the provision of government financial and medical assistances to Filipinos.