What you need to know about the new price cap on medicines

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 18 2020 04:04 PM

MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte recently signed an executive order setting the maximum price for 87 medicines. But what does it mean for consumers?

In this article, we list down the important aspects of the new order and how it will benefit Filipinos.

87 MEDICINES AND MORE

Executive Order No. 104, which the President signed on Monday, expands on the Maximum Drug Retail Price (MDRP) scheme and covers 87 medicines or molecules and 133 combinations or preparations.

These include medicines for leading diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, chronic lung diseases, and major cancers. It also includes medicines for prematurity, chronic renal disease, psoriasis, and rheumatoid arthritis.

Below is a list of the medicines covered by the first tranche of EO 104.

LOWERING PRICES BY 58 PCT AT MOST

According to the Department of Health (DOH), price reduction can be as high as 58 percent.

Examples include Insulin Glulisine for diabetes, which currently retails at P818.75 for a 3 mL pre-filled pen. When the EO is implemented in 90 days, its maximum price will be set at P435.18, a price reduction of 47 percent.

A 40-mg film-coated tablet of Afatinib, which is taken by cancer patients, will also have a maximum price of P3,961.49. This is a 48 percent price reduction from its current prevailing market price of P7,687.50.

A 150-milligram vial of Trastuzumab for cancer patients will also be reduced to P36,452.14 from its current market price of P50,776.28.

 90 DAYS IMPLEMENTATION

The maximum retail price of the 87 medicines will be imposed 90 days from February 17, when the executive order was posted by the Official Gazette.

In the meantime, businesses will be allowed to dispose of medicines at prevailing prices. After the 90 days, even existing stocks will have to be sold under the maximum retail and wholesale prices dictated by the EO.

PENALTIES

Manufacturers and stores who will violate the maximum retail and wholesale prices specified in the EO will face penalties under Republic Act 9502 or the Cheaper Medicines Act. 

The act states that after “due notice and hearing," the health chief may fine "any person, manufacturer, importer, trader, distributor, wholesaler, retailer, or any other entity" between P50,000 and P5 million. 

 35 MORE MEDICINES

The DOH is hoping that another 35 drug molecules and 72 preparations or combinations will be approved. But since this will involve significant price reductions at 60 percent or more, it will have to undergo further review. The review will involve the creation of a technical working group by the DOH and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

MORE EXPENSIVE THAN EUROPE

According to health officials, the prices of medicines in the Philippines are notoriously higher than in developing countries. Part of it is because of the lack of transparency of some multinational companies and the lack of competition within the local market.

Dr. Anna Melissa Guerrero, chief of the DOH Pharmaceutical Division, said most if not all of the 87 medicines are single-sourced and imported. This means that there is only one company selling it in the Philippines.

“It’s unacceptable for a country like the Philippines, we are not even a high middle-income country, that prices (of medicine) are higher than European countries, for example,” Guerrero said in a press conference on Tuesday.

 COMPANIES TO SHUT DOWN?

The DOH also assured the public that the price reduction won’t result in the closure of pharmaceutical companies.

“Madalas nilang sabihin 'yan pero sa bandang huli dahil mas madaming tao ang makakabili, dadami naman ang kanilang consumers, dadami ang tatangkilik dito sa kanilang mga produkto, sa volume mababa ang kanilang kita pero expanded ang volume so puwede naman nilang mabawi ang kanilang profit,” Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said in the presser. 

(They usually say that but in the end, more people will be able to buy medicines. Their customers will increase and while their profit will decrease, the volume of sales will increase so they can earn back the profit they lost.)