INTENDED to help Filipinos purchase medicines at a lower cost, the Cheaper Medicines Act has imposed price ceilings and opened easier access of expensive medicine to consumers.

Ratified in 2008, the provision limiting the prices of drugs posed a serious threat to pharmaceutical companies. With the cost of production increasing nowadays, drug companies are struggling to come out with cheaper branded medicine to cater to the demands of the people.

The Act gives the President of the Philippines the power to impose price ceilings on certain medicine brands for diabetes, cancer, hypertension and antibiotics. During its implementation, many drug companies followed as price changes were mandatory and violators will be punished if they fail to meet the price ceiling.

Compared to Southeast Asian countries like Indonesia, India and Singapore, which have made drastic price cuts in medicine to help its citizens, the Philippines made little changes in adjusting the prices of its medicines. The Department of Health’s medicine distribution project, P100, helped Filipinos in rural areas purchase medicines at lower prices because the program sold medicine for common ailments to Filipinos like asthma and diabetes.

A study conducted by the non-government organization Center for Legislative Development revealed that price cuts in medicine during the Arroyo administration of 50 to 70 percent, only helped those in the middle class, but not its intended beneficiaries—the lower class.

The government has been acting on this problem by providing free medicine distribution to the poor.

In the face of its implementation, the act still has its loopholes. One example would be the Maximum Drug Retail Price (MDRP) because it does not cover all kinds of medicines. The MDRP only covered anti-hypertensive, anti-cholesterol, anti-bacterial and anti-cancer; it should have covered all types of medicines.

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A previous law, the Philippine Generics Act of 1988, helped the Cheaper Medicines Act because it aimed to promote the generics industry, but was not strong enough to implement change. Antonio Ramon H. Royandoyan


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