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97 medicines to be sold at 50% off starting March 31—DoH

Posted on: February 26, 2010

97 medicines to be sold at 50% off starting March 31—DoH

By Anna Valmero
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 13:42:00 02/26/2010

Filed Under: Medicines, Government, Health, Consumer Issues

MANILA, Philippines – At least 97 medicines will be sold at half their original prices starting March 31, Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral announced Friday.

Cabral said drug companies agreed to lower the cost of medicines for hypertension and chronic diseases, bladder and prostate disorders, hepatitis, asthma, depression and psychotic and mental disorders, as well as some medical equipment and fluids for dialysis.

Drug stores are advised to dispose of their stock of these medicines that were bought at higher prices a month ago, said Cabral.

Senator Manuel “Mar” Roxas, who co-authored the Cheaper Medicines Law, said these drugs were chosen because they were being used daily by Filipinos.

“Ang mga gamot na pinili ay yung madalas kailangan at mas mataas ang presyo ang benta sa atin kumpara sa ibang bansa [The drugs chosen for mediated pricing are those that are used frequently and were sold at higher prices in other countries]. This is one way to make our drugs available at the drug stores and accessible to the public at the same time,” said Roxas.

“The savings from these maintenance drugs will result in tangible savings for Filipino households. For example, Vytorin a brand of maintenance drug against high cholesterol costs P202 per tablet before but will now be sold at P101. The savings from this can enable a Filipino household to buy three kilos of tilapia or rice daily. For Losartan potassium, an anti-hypertensive, we are able to reduce its price from P43 to P22 – and the savings can allow a family to buy two cans of sardines,” said Roxas.

Under the new government mediated drug pricing, Roxas added that cancer patients could save up to P3,600 when they buy Zoladex, an anti-cancer injectible solution, since it could be purchased at P6,800 from P10,400 per 3.6 milligram solution.

Cabral said DoH expected up to P2 billion in savings from the price reductions of the 97 medicines.

“The average price reduction is 50 percent but some companies offered to give up to 70 percent off on some medicines. This would allow P2 billion in overall savings,” said Cabral.

Senior citizens will be able to buy the drugs at the government mediated prices and get an additional 20 percent discount, as mandated under the recently passed Expanded Senior Citizens Law, said Cabral.

But Roxas and Cabral said there was much to do to make medicines accessible to more Filipinos such as strengthening the generics industry in the country to create a healthy competitive pricing with branded medicines.

“The government-mediated drug pricing is only one measure in letting more Filipinos to afford medicines. We also need to intensify our generic brands which have counterparts for almost 80 percent of branded drugs sold in the country. Hand in hand with this, our doctors should also be able to prescribe generics to patients, instead of prioritizing branded medicines,” said Roxas.

The DoH is also looking into reducing prices of medicines for cardiovascular diseases.

Cabral said DoH would soon post the list of half-priced medicines in all drug stores nationwide and hotlines will be available to consumers wanting to report violators, who can be fined up to P5 million.

Seventy-two medicine products were sold 50 percent off in August 2009, including drugs against hypertension, diabetes, influenza, high cholesterol, cancer, arthritis, goiter, allergies and infections.

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