Sunday, June 5, 2011

Three years of Cheaper Medicine Law has not made drugs affordable

Three years after the Universally Accessible Cheaper and Quality Medicines Act of 2008 (Republic Act 9502) was signed, essential drugs are still neither assessable nor affordable to ordinary Filipinos.

Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD) today criticized the Aquino administration for perpetuating “an anemic implementation of an already watered-down law”. Citing a 2009 study by Health Action Information Network on medicine prices and availability in the Philippines, “standard treatments with these (brand-name drugs) require several days’ up to a weeks’ worth of wages”, said Dr. Geneve E. Rivera, secretary-general of Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD).

According to the same study, “generic medicines in private facilities may be unaffordable too, requiring several days’ wages to purchase.” “Treatment courses using generic medicines in public facilities are generally affordable based on the salary of the lowest paid government worker. However, many Filipinos earn less than this wage and that managing an illness entails other costs that may eventually render even the lowest-cost treatments unaffordable.”

HEAD believes that the Aquino government has not done enough to regulate the practices of multinational drug companies. These companies have had their way in dictating drug prices, which are often three-to-four times more than prices in other countries.

“How can the Cheaper Medicine Law have any real impact when the monopoly of big transnational pharmaceutical in the drug industry continues?” said Dr. Rivera. The health group also believes that essential steps in establishing a national, a truly Filipino drug industry must be undertaken.

“While the immediate goal is to put an end to the monopoly pricing that has kept our people captive for decades, the more long-term goal is to institutionalize fundamental changes in the entire drug industry because this is the only way to ensure affordable and accessible medicine.” added Dr. Rivera. ###

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