MANILA - A group of drug makers on Thursday said continuing its business in the country "may not be viable" should government cut down prices of some 120 medicines.
"There are some medicines that are going to be affecting the bread and butter of a good number of our members and that will definitely affect their operations here," said Teodoro Padilla, executive director of Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines (PHAP).
"Looking at it from the point of view of business, it may not be viable to continue at that scale."
The Department of Health earlier asked President Rodrigo Duterte to lower the prices of some medicines, saying that drug rates in the country are, at most, 70 times higher compared with same brands of medicines in other countries.
The prices of some drugs were last slashed in 2009 through an executive order by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Padilla, however, said medicines in the Philippines are "comparable" to its neighbors in Southeast Asia.
"And with respect to the fact that there is very fierce competition in the generics sector with medicine pricing, it shows that the market is striving very well," he said.
Padilla urged government to procure medicines since it has the "budget to purchase in bulk."
"When government comes in to negotiate, they can say we have this amount, give us the best price," he said.
"This is currently being done in Thailand and China, which used to have a price control mechanism got rid of it simply because they knew they were not going to get best deals by simply imposing price controls."
DOH pharmaceutical chief Anna Guerrero said the agency set four criteria in selecting the 120 medicines whose price will be cut: medicines for major diseases such as hypertension, higher drug price compared with other countries, limited competition, and medicines for "disadvantaged populations."
The DOH had "extensive consultation" with drug makers, patient organizations and consumers, Guerrero said.
"Of course we have to consider also the impact to the industry, we don’t really want them to go out of business. We want affordable and fair access, that’s all we want," she said.
"We are not a very rich country, they have to be pricing their medicines at a reachable level to the Filipinos."
The DOH eyes President Rodrigo Duterte's signature by December, Guerrero said, and lower medicine prices after 120 days.