Universal Health Care bill ensures acess to cheap medicine -- Angara

Sonny Angara
Sonny Angara

WITH the enactment of the Universal Health Care (UHC) bill, Senator Sonny Angara said that now poor Filipinos will have easy access to quality yet affordable medicines that would save many lives.

Senate Bill 1896 or the UHC was approved on third and final reading of the Senate last week and is now awaiting the signature of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Under Section 25 of the proposed measure, “drug outlets shall be required at all times to carry the generic equivalent of all drugs in the Primary Care Formulary.”

“We are now a step closer to ensuring that every Filipino family will have access to health services without causing them financial hardship. Kabilang sa mga nilalayon nito ang maging libre ang check-up at laboratory test at gawing abot-kaya ang mga gamot para sa lahat,” said Angara, one of the authors and sponsors of  the bill.

According to the Department of Health (DoH), generic medicines now account for 65 percent of the total pharmaceutical market in terms of volume sales, thanks to the Generics Act of 1988 which was authored by the late Senate President Edgardo Angara.

The three-decade old law requires doctors to prescribe generic drugs, which are 50-70% cheaper than their branded counterpart. Generic and branded medicines have the same quality and effectivity.

“Studies have shown that medicines in the Philippines are five to 30 times more expensive than those in other parts of Asia. My father’s Generics Law intended to reduce Filipinos’ out-of-pocket spending for medicines.

“Sa kabila ng batas na ito, marami pa rin sa ating mga botika ang hindi nagbebenta ng generics. Kung kaya’t sa ilalim naman ng UHC, sisiguruhin natin na ang lahat ay may access na sa mga abot-kayang gamot,” Angara said.

Moreover, the bill seeks to constitute an independent body to negotiate prices on behalf of the DOH and PhilHealth.

Currently, government health facilities across the country do their own procurement and price negotiation. Because of this, different hospitals buy the same drug at different rates, and there are instances where medicines are more expensive in the provinces.

“To avoid disparities in medicine prices, a central procurement and price negotiation board is needed to guarantee the availability and affordability of medicines in all parts of the country,” the senator said.