A day after Akbayan Senator Risa Hontiveros warned of a looming health crisis if the the government failed to address the country’s multiple health emergencies, the Senator pushed to lower the prices of medicines.
In a privilege speech delivered on Tuesday, Hontiveros, citing data from the Department of Health (DOH), explained that the prices of medicines in the country remain high and out of reach for the majority of Filipinos since medicine costs in the public sector are at least 4 times higher than international reference prices (IRP) while medicines costs in the private sector can be 22 times higher than the IRP. Meanwhile, innovator or original-branded medicines are sold in the private sector at prices 486% higher compared to similar drugs in public hospitals.
“Presyo ng gamot, hindi maabot”
“We have made significant inroads in the health sector, particularly with the passage of the Universal Health Care (UHC) Law. Ngunit maaaring mabura ang mga ito kung hindi matutugunan ang isang mabigat na problema. Ano ang problema? Ang presyo ng gamot, hindi maabot,” Hontiveros said.
Hontiveros said that most Filipinos – even those coming from middle class and upper middle class households – simply cannot afford much-needed medicines, even with assistance programs like PhilHealth. In many cases, Hontiveros said that people are forced to sell property, or just refuse treatments for their ailments so that they would not burden their families.
“Ilan pa ba ang mga Pilipinong dapat magkasakit at mamatay bago ibaba ang presyo ng gamot sa mga sakit na may lunas naman? Kailangan bang mabaon sa hirap ang pamilyang Pilipino sa tuwing may sakunang dumadating? Mura, agaran, epektibong lunas at gamot ang kailangan. Mas mahalaga ang kalusugan ng mamamayan kaysa sa tubo o kita ng iilan,” Hontiveros said.
Hontiveros also said that the exorbitant prices of medicines could undermine the implementation of the UHC Law, since a large share of funds will be spent on buying expensive medicines. “Nearly half or 41% of all health care spending in the Philippines has been going to pharmaceutical products. In comparison, the share of medicines in total health expenditures of other countries is as low as 19.7% in high income countries, to 30.4% in low income countries,” she said.
As a response, Hontiveros called on Malacañang to immediately exercise price control and regulatory powers granted under the Cheaper Medicines Law (RA 9502), which she co-authored in 2008 as Akbayan’s partylist representative. The Senator specifically pushed to put a price ceiling to 120 drugs and medicines for common diseases and conditions like diabetes, heart disease, asthma and types of cancer to the list of drugs with Maximum Drug Retail Prices (MDRP).
“Isang dekada na ang nakakalipas mula nang huli natin nagamit ang mandatong ito. Panahon na para muling ipatupad ito. Sa tindi ng krisis sa pambansang kalusugan na ating dinadanas, kailangan mabilis, malawakan at mapagkalinga ating tugon at solusyon,” Hontiveros concluded.