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DOH lauds new pricing limitations on drugs

The Department of Health (DOH) has hailed the issuing of an executive order adding 34 drug compounds to the list of medications with obligatory price limitations.

EO 155, ordered by President Rodrigo Duterte last December 7, is part of the present administration’s effort to make medicines cheaper for Filipinos.

Overall, there are now at least 120 pharmacological molecules within the Maximum Drug Price List since the first wave of price reductions was introduced in June 2020.

“We thank the Office of the President for making inexpensive medicines a significant emphasis of our Universal Health Care strategy as indicated by this historic action to widen the list of medications under the maximum drug retail price system. UHC ensures that every Juan and Juana has access to cheap medicines,” Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said.

Duque said the EO comes at a most opportune time with millions of Filipinos still hurting from the health and economic repercussions of the Covid-19 outbreak.

He added that the mandatory price reduction is a welcome gift for many Filipino patients seen by the DOH as a poverty-alleviating measure together with other measures implemented by the whole of government to improve access to medicines such as VAT exemptions and medicines access programs for priority diseases.

Under EO 155, 34 medicinal compounds or 71 medication formulations will have their prices slashed by as much as 93 percent from present levels.

The drugs treat the most frequent disorders in the country such as hypertension, diabetes, asthma, COPD, end-stage renal disease, and other chronic conditions such as psoriasis and Parkinson’s disease.

In February 2020, Duterte initially issued price reductions for a long list of pharmaceuticals with 87 medicinal compounds and 133 formulations.

The DOH, working with the Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Trade and Industry, has been monitoring the execution of the law and issuing punishments for violators of the drug price restriction.

“There has been strong compliance overall by manufacturers, distributors, hospitals, and pharmacies since we established the MDRP. We also applaud the drug establishments for their cooperation and willingness to collaborate with the government in our efforts to cut drug prices despite the supply chain issues stemming from the pandemic,” Duque stated.

EO 155 also revoked EO 821 which set the maximum drug retail price on five drug molecules – amlodipine, atorvastatin, azithromycin, cytarabine, and doxorubicin in 2009 when the generic competition has already resulted in significantly lower pricing for the said medicines.

All drug companies are given ninety days to consume their existing stockpiles before EO 155 takes full effect on March 22, 2022.

Meanwhile, senior citizens and persons-with-disability are still entitled to enjoy preferential discounts for pharmaceuticals featured in the MDRP list.

The DOH, through the FDA, continuously examines the impact of the present price regulation as well as the compliance of all players with the MDRP.

Violations against the MDRP are subject to fines and administrative sanctions under the Cheaper Medicines Act which includes penalties ranging from PHP50,000 to PHP5,000,000 for every infraction.

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