Big Pharma Puts Up Huge Lobby Fund To Fight Cheap Medicine Bill In Philippines

July 29, 2007 at 9:31 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments

MANILA, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / 29 Jul) – Pharmaceutical firms have allegedly put up as much as P1-billion lobby fund to derail the passage of a bill seeking to reduce medicine prices.

But Cebu Rep. Eduardo Gullas has warned multinational pharmaceutical firms against carrying out their plan, saying, the government is firm in supporting the “Cheap Medicine Bill.”

“Our people desperately need access to affordable medicine. The new Congress has no other recourse but to quickly pass the bill. It is bad enough that the previous Congress failed to pass the bill,” Gullas said.

Gullas earlier introduced House Bill 307, his version of the Cheap Medicine Bill. The measure is comparable to the bill previously introduced by Iloilo Rep. Ferjenel Biron.

Last week, Biron accused multinational drug firms of putting up the money to allegedly “kill” the Cheap Medicine Bill.

Gullas’ bill seeks to provide Filipinos increased access to inexpensive drugs by reinforcing the parallel importation scheme of the state-owned Philippine International Trading Corp. (PTIC), and by allowing any entity to import patented drugs sold cheaper in other countries.

Gullas said the country’s health protection remains grossly inadequate, with only one of every three citizens covered by medical insurance. He said the government’s insufficient financial resources have hampered universal health insurance coverage.

As a result, Filipinos have to take out of their own pockets more than 40 percent of all health-related spending, including the purchase of high-priced medicines.

“Congress should promptly relax existing patent rules by declaring that parallel importation will not violate trademarks, as long as the drugs brought in are determined to be genuine counterparts produced in other countries,” Gullas said.

“Allowing unrestrained competition is one sure way for Congress to help drive down drug prices, and make them more affordable to most Filipinos.”

Based on the finding of previous congressional inquiries, dozens of branded drugs that are now being sold here at prohibitive prices, may in fact be imported and sold here for much less.

For example, a branded amlodipine which costs P44.75 in the Philippines sells only P6 in India. And branded drugs such as Mefenamic acid that costs P20.98 in the country sells for about P2.80 in India and P1.46 in Pakistan. And same with branded loperamide hydrochloric acid that usually costs P10.70 only sells P1.94 in Pakistan.

The PITC imports about 90 cheap medicines that are being sold to the public through Botika ng Bayan outlets. The 1,345 outlets nationwide will be increased to 2,000 by year’s end.

This year, the PITC plans to import from Pakistan and India an additional P500-million worth of medicines, mainly for diabetes, asthma, hypertension, and tuberculosis.

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