Senator Christopher “Bong” Go reiterated his commitment to push for measures to provide all Filipinos with better access to affordable essential medicines. He expressed this as President Rodrigo Duterte signed Executive Order (EO) No. 104 dated February 17, 2020, which regulates the prices of select drugs including essential medicines most commonly prescribed to patients.
“Nagpapasalamat po ako sa ating mahal na Pangulo sa pag-apruba ng rekomendasyon ng Senado na paigtingin pa lalo ang access ng mga Pilipino sa murang gamot. Patuloy po tayong magtatrabaho para maging mas mabilis, maayos at maaasahan ang serbisyong pang-medikal sa ating bansa,” Go said.
“Sa mga polisiya na aking hinahain o sinusuportahan, palagi ko pong uunahin ang kapakanan ng bawat Pilipino,” he added.
The EO was signed a few months after Go, the Chair of the Senate Committee on Health and Demography, vowed to personally discuss the matter with the President.
At the Senate session on November 5, Go stated that he would “suggest to the President the inclusion of all essential medicines in the proposed list of expanded MDRP (Maximum Drug Retail Prices) and for its immediate release to complement the Universal Health Care Law.”
On January 13, the Senator reiterated in a radio interview his support for the proposed policy. “Ako naman po ay nakikiusap sa mga kompanya, balansehin po natin ‘yung profit at saka kapakanan po at interes po ng bawat Pilipino at bawat pasyente,” he said.
EO No. 104 imposes Maximum Retail Price (MRP) and Maximum Wholesale Price (MWP) on “select drugs and medicines totaling to 86 drug molecules or 133 drug formulas” annexed to the order.
The EO also orders representatives from the Department of Health (DOH) and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to “convene and review” the prices of the remaining 36 drug molecules or 72 drug formulas previously proposed to be included in the MRP and MWP list.
The President signed the EO, as recommended by DOH and echoed by various senators including Go, in accordance with the provisions of Republic Act (RA) No. 9502 or the Cheaper Medicines Act of 2008, which grants the President of the Philippines the power to impose maximum retail prices over drugs and medicines sold in the country, upon the recommendation of the DOH Secretary.
“Healthcare is a right, not a commodity,” Go regularly emphasizes in his statements. He also said that he is supporting the initiative to control the prices of select drugs and medicine as “an advocate of universal healthcare access for all Filipinos” and “to ensure that our countrymen and women gain easier access to cheaper quality medicines.”
He added, “Essential medicines in the Philippines continue to be exorbitantly priced relative to international counterparts. Generic drug prices are also approximately up to four times higher than international reference prices.”
In selecting which drugs and medicines to impose MRP and MWP on, the President, in the EO, stated the following criteria:
a. Drugs that address the health priorities of the general public especially those that account for the leading causes of morbidity and mortality;
b. Drugs that have high price differentials/arbitrage compared to international prices;
c. Drugs that have limited competition in terms of lack of generic counterparts or lack of market access to these products; and
d. Drugs where the innovator product is the most expensive yet most prescribed and/or dispensed in the market.
The EO further states that the MRP will be imposed on all public and private retail outlets, including drugstores, hospitals and hospital pharmacies, health maintenance organizations, convenience stores and supermarkets and the like.
MWP, meanwhile, will be imposed on all manufacturers, wholesalers, traders, distributors and the like.
The drugs and medicines included in the MRP and MWP list will be subject to review by the DOH, in consultation with the DTI, within six months from the effectivity of the order and every six months thereafter.
Violations of EO No. 104 will be dealt with in accordance with RA 9502 and other related laws.
“Pinirmahan na po ito ni Pangulong Duterte gaya ng pangako nya noon,” Go announced in a radio interview on Monday morning.
“Alam nyo po, matagal na ang batas na ito, noon pang 2008 pa itong Cheaper Medicines Act at, gaya ng sinabi ko, kailangan pa ba nating maghintay ng 12 na taon o tatlong presidente pa bago maimplementa ito,” he added.
The objective of the EO is to improve access of Filipinos to healthcare through the imposition of maximum retail prices on drugs that address the top causes of morbidity and mortality in the country.
“Alam naman natin na marami pong kababayan natin ang nangangailangan ng gamot, minsan wala nga po silang choice. Bumibili na lang ng gamot kahit mahal sa hangaring humaba ang kanilang buhay tulad nitong mga medisina para sa diabetes, hypertension, cancer at iba pang sakit,” Go stressed.
The Senator assured the public that he and the President will continue to serve and protect the welfare and interest of Filipinos who need government attention the most, especially the most vulnerable sectors of society and the generations of Filipinos to come.
“Gusto naming hindi na maging problema ang pagpapagamot ng mga mahihirap. Gusto naming labanan ang droga, korapsyon at kriminalidad. Gusto naming mabigyan ng magandang kinabukasan ang susunod na henerasyon,” he said.
“Rest assured kami po ni Pangulong Duterte, kapakanan at interes po ng bawat Pilipino ang uunahin natin dito lalong lalo na po sa mga pasyenteng nangangailangan ng tulong sa harangin pong humaba ang kanilang buhay. Tulungan natin sila,” he added.
Go explained further that the expanded list under MDRP will complement the UHC and the Malasakit Center Act in providing accessible quality healthcare for all Filipinos.
“These policies will complement each other. Ang importante naman dito ay ang affordable na medisina na kayang bilhin ng ating mga kababayan. Lalo na po ang maintenance medicines na napakahirap bilhin. Minsan nga po lumalapit din sila sa Malasakit Centers natin, pwede n’yong lapitan ang Malasakit Centers at ang PhilHealth po ay may mga packages naman under the UHC,” Go explained.
Go, during Monday’s radio interview, also announced that the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) for the Malasakit Center Act will be signed next week.
“Pipirmahan na po ang IRR nito sa next week. Dyan po sa (National Kidney and Transplant Institute) lalagdaan ang IRR tapos ngayong araw ay magbubukas na po ang pang-63 Malasakit Center po sa probinsya po ng Capiz,” Go said, adding that aside from DOH-run hospitals, LGU-run hospitals can also have their own Malasakit Centers provided that they comply with a set of criteria indicated in the IRR.