Press Release
September 7, 2006

Cayetano: High drug prices can kill

Senate Health and Demography committee chair Sen. Pia S. Cayetano is pushing for the swift passage of Senate Bill No. 2263, which seeks to lower drug prices by proposing amendments to the Intellectual Property Code.

"What's the price of becoming ill in the country? If your heart ailment and/or any other ailment do not kill you, then drug prices surely will," Cayetano said in her co-sponsorship speech of the measure originally authored by Sen. Mar Roxas.

She cited as an example the common antibiotic Bactrim, generically named "Co-trimoxazole."

Manufactured by the multinational drug firm Roche, the drug is priced locally at P14.80 per 400/80 mg capsule. But the same capsule is sold by Roche in India at only P0.75 and in Pakistan at P1.09.

"This means that Bactrim is being sold in the Philippines at prices around 1,300% to 1,900% higher than in Pakistan and India," she noted.

Aside from Bactrim, she said many more pharmaceutical drugs are sold exorbitantly higher here than in other countries, varying from 150% to 1,000% higher. These include the anti-diarrheal drug Immodium, the painkiller Ponstan, the anti-spasmodic Buscopan, the anti-asthma inhaler Ventolin, just to name a few.

"No wonder there are many Filipinos dropping dead of ailments that could otherwise have been controlled, because of the drop-dead prices of medicines here."

Cayetano said the public just couldn't accept the justification of drug companies that the high cost of manufacturing and local taxes push local medicine prices to such exorbitant levels.

SB 2263 seeks to broaden public access to medicines and lower drug prices by amending certain provisions of Republic Act 8293, the Intellectual Property Code of the Philippines.

She said the amendments seek the following:

1. Parallel importation of medicines simply put, allowing the importation of a lower priced and identical patented drug, without the consent of the patent holder, to enhance competition;

2. Early development of patented medicines allowing generic companies to experiment and test for regulatory approval of generic versions of a drug or medicine before its patent expires;

3. Provide exemption to government importation, manufacture, sale or distribution of medicines from the standard compulsory licensing requirements this will provide legal protection from lawsuits and temporary restraining orders to government importation, manufacture, sale and distribution of medicines; and

4. Disallow new uses or derivatives of patented drugs to be covered by a separate or new patent to effectively limit the possibility of several patents being issued for previously patented drug, purportedly for each demonstrable "new use" of said drug.

"Health care is a basic rightbut the cost of medicine is making a mockery of that right. Unlike most commodities that consumers purchase every day, medicine is an essential item. Access to medicines is a question of life and death, and medicines cannot be treated as mere commodities," she concluded.

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