Making quality and cheaper medicines a reality for Filipinos | Inquirer Opinion
LETTER TO THE EDITOR

Making quality and cheaper medicines a reality for Filipinos

/ 04:05 AM August 15, 2022

Please allow us to share our insights on the editorial “Cheaper medicines for all” (8/11/22).

As the editorial accurately stated, the Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines (PHAP) supports the priority agenda of President Marcos Jr. to foster vibrant competition in the pharmaceutical industry. We share in the goal to ignite competition as the primary means to lower medicine prices. The entry of generic manufacturers into the country will spur more competition that can drive prices down and give treatment options to government, physicians, and patients.

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India’s experience as “the pharmacy of the world” can help boost the production of generic medicines in the country. For the country to fully benefit from their successful production experience, we need to also consider that medicines still account for 69 percent of household out-of-pocket spending in health care in India. This suggests that there remains a need to prioritize “solutions that will require quality health care in the long term” as being suggested by the Mercer Marsh Benefits report in 2019.

Reflective of the desire to eliminate out-of-pocket expenses, the Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey commissioned by PHAP in December 2021 reported the high preference of Filipinos for free and subsidized medicines as the most helpful ways of obtaining medicines for a grave illness. At present, the government is providing subsidized or free medicines for certain diseases, but these would need to be expanded to provide more support to patients, and cover more health conditions especially for the poor.

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Currently, it is estimated that for every P100 spent on medicines, P85 is paid out-of-pocket by Filipino families or shared by voluntary private insurance. The country’s private share in medicine expenses (or the amount paid directly by an individual) is one of the highest in the world compared with Malaysia (45 percent), South Korea (42 percent), New Zealand (32 percent), and Thailand (9 percent).

We note that medicine prices in Thailand and most European countries are low because it is a single-payer system where the government is the primary purchaser of medicines. Thailand government’s share in pharmaceutical expenditure is 91 percent. With bigger funding for medicines and continuing negotiations with the pharmaceutical industry, these countries have been able to drive medicine prices down and provide the needed medicines for more people. Thailand is a model in universal health care implementation, and the Philippines has also enacted the UHC Act which can similarly employ pooled procurement and price negotiation as tools to reduce medicine costs.

The power of price negotiation and pooled procurement can be seen with the Department of Health’s earlier experience in lowering the price of a breast cancer drug by at least 66 percent when it procured the said medicine in bulk.

PHAP, representing the research-based pharmaceutical industry, pledges our support to the government to truly make life-saving medicines accessible to Filipinos. PHAP and our members have demonstrated this commitment when we worked tirelessly to ensure that Filipinos have access to diagnostics, vaccines, and medicines needed for COVID-19 and other health conditions despite the raging global pandemic. We believe that with our continuing dialogue and by closely working together, we can make quality and cheaper medicines a reality for all under the Marcos administration.

TEODORO B. PADILLA
Executive Director
PHAP

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