Thursday, June 04, 2009

HEAD on drugs in the Philippines: “Still neither affordable nor accessible”

One year after the Universally Accessible Cheaper and Quality Medicines Act of 2008 (Republic Act 9502) was signed into law by Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, medicines are still neither affordable nor accessible.

According to Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD), this is not surprising since the law is inherently flawed, especially when the more salient provisions like regulation were removed before it was passed.

“The landscape of the pharmaceutical industry has not changed because the law is anchored on deregulation than on regulation, and because the law favors the business sector rather the consumers,” said Dr. Gene Alzona Nisperos, HEAD vice-chairperson.

According to HEAD, the law perpetuated, instead of dismantled, the status quo. As such, the monopolies enjoyed by transnational corporations as well as the practice of monopoly pricing persist.

“Sadly, the watered-down law has not lessened the burden borne by Filipino patients and their families,” added Dr. Nisperos. “After one year of implementation, the law has no tangible, no palpable impact, especially on healthcare and health services.”

As HEAD had warned earlier, none of the law’s provisions delivered on their touted hype. For instance, parallel importation suffered from the lack of an appropriate budget from the national government. The Bureau of Food and Drug (BFAD) remains weak and unable to perform its function of drug monitoring. Much needed essential drugs are still expensive and beyond the reach of ordinary Filipinos.

These are the problems that the law is supposed to have addressed. Yet these problems are worse than ever.

“The lack of sincerity by its main proponents, as well as the lack of political will by those tasked to implement it, ensured the failure of this law.” Dr. Nisperos added. “Like many toothless legislation, the cheaper medicine law has become just another tool for political posturing.”

Citing the failure of the cheaper medicine law, HEAD is pushing for more regulation. “The Arroyo government’s neoliberal policy, together with the generally pro-business stand of legislators, benefits only big pharmaceuticals.”

“Drug price regulation and regulation of the entire drug industry are essential if there are to be immediate meaningful changes that will benefit the Filipino people.”####