The Department of Health (DOH) today gave updates on its efforts to lower prices of selected high cost medicines. An updated list of medicines will be recommended to the Office of the President, for the imposition of  maximum drug retail prices (MDRP) for drugs, pursuant to the Cheaper Medicines Act of 2008 (Republic Act 9502).

The proposed list covers 120 drugs addressing leading diseases and catastrophic conditions in the Philippines such as hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular disease (CVD), chronic lung diseases, neonatal diseases, and major cancers. The list also covers high cost treatments for chronic renal disease, psoriasis, and rheumatoid arthritis which were requested by several patient organizations and medical societies for inclusion in  the price reduction efforts of the government.

Under the maximum retail price scheme, prices of selected medicines are expected to have a mean price reduction of 56% from the prevailing market prices once an Executive Order is signed by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte. 

The current proposed list of drugs and medicines for price regulation was recommended by the Drug Price Advisory Council, created in August 2018 following the directive of the President to employ all possible mechanisms to make medicines affordable to Filipinos.  The advisory committee is composed of independent technical experts from various disciplines such as epidemiology, clinical medicine, economics, law, drug policy, and competition policy.

Medicines were chosen on the basis of burden of disease in terms of magnitude and the severity of the conditions, high price arbitrage when compared with selected reference countries, and the presence of limited competition.

Undersecretary Domingo explained that while the general trend in the prices of generic essential medicines have gone down in recent years, the Philippines is still paying higher prices when compared internationally. Generic drugs are still sold up to four times the international reference prices whereas branded innovator products are sold up to 22 times higher, especially in private hospitals and pharmacies.

The DOH has committed to work with all stakeholders towards a framework that will ensure improved patient access to and affordability of medicines. Towards this end, DOH is currently exploring pooled bidding and framework contracting, central price negotiation and the creation of the outpatient drug benefit scheme under UHC.

“High prices of medicines undermine the health of millions of Filipinos. Poor and middle-income families are especially vulnerable to being trapped in the vicious cycle of poverty, inequality, and debt because of the high cost of healthcare. We need to impose the MDRP if we want better health and societal outcomes for Filipinos,” concluded Undersecretary Domingo.