I just read that the Congressional Oversight Committee on Cheaper Medicines Law held a committee meeting last Wednesday, Dec. 16, at the Senate. Among those present were Sen. Pia Cayetano and Cong. Arthur Pinggoy, Chairman of the House Committee on Health.
Sen. Pia attacked the Department of Health (DOH) and Sec. Duque for not coming up with a second batch of medicines for drug price control as many people she said, still complain that they don't feel the cheaper prices of medicines yet. She cited the following:
1. Cisplatin 500 mg (anti-cervical cancer), original price at P2,804, price control at P1,125, but can be bought only at P770 from PGH's Cancer Institute.
2. Ramosetron 100 mg (anti-cervical cancer), price control at P860, but can be bought at PGH's CI at only P156.
I do not know how such a big discrepancy can happen. I also wish to see if the drugs cited by Sen. Pia are of the same drug by the same manufacturer and the same distributor. And not one is a generics counterpart, or one is parallel-imported, or other differences.
I think the DOH should conduct a review first of the policy. The drug price control policy is now more than 4 months old (since August 15, 2009). A review is necessary if the policy is beneficial to the public, both short-term and long-term, or not. If it can be proven that it indeed benefited the public, then an extension, if not expansion, of the policy is warranted. Otherwise, the policy should be terminated very soon.
Perhaps BFAD and the DOH can help answer these possible questions in assessing the effectivity or benefits of the policy:
1. Health result of some patients who are chronic or repeated users of certain drugs that were price-controlled?
2. Instances of drug withrawals, say generics products that cannot compete the sudden low prices of branded and/or innovators drugs?
3. Instances of revolutionary and more powerful medicines against cancer, hypertension, and other killer diseases in the country, that are available in neighboring Asian countries which have no drug price control policy, but are not available in the Philippines?
4. General reaction of other players in the health sector -- drugstores (big and small), hospitals (government and private), pharma companies (local and multinational), professionals' organizations (pharmacists, physicians, nurses, etc.).
I hope that drugs pricing will be depolicicized as soon as possible. When there is heavy politics involved in the pricing of something (drugs, oil, food, house rental, electricity, bus fare, etc.), there is always distortion that will adversely affect the number and quality of players and producers in a given sector.