Gov’t official laments high cost of ‘off-patent’ drugs in RP, control by cartel

Posted on May 24, 2006. Filed under: News |

Published on May 24, 2006 issue of SunStar Manila
http://www.sunstar.com.ph/static/man/2006/05/24/news/gov.t.official.laments.high.cost.of.off.patent.drugs.in.rp.control.by.cartel.html

While 80 to 90 percent of medicines in the country are already “off patent,” its prices are still high, an official rued on Tuesday.

Roberto Pagdanganan, chairman of the Philippine International Trading Center (PITC), said people could no longer afford to buy medicines because multinational pharmaceutical companies control the market.

“Eighty to 90 percent of most medicines in the Philippines are beyond 20 years of patent protection but the prices continue to be very high,” he said during the launching at the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) of the “Ayos na Gamot sa Abot kayang Presyo (Agap),” a coalition of local pharmaceuticals, health professionals, trade unions, government and concerned individuals that aims to bring down the prices of medicines in the country.

Pagdangangan said the amount of medicines went up by 10 percent last year and because of this, consumer purchase also dropped by 2.2 percent. He admitted that even with the availability of generic drugs in the market, consumers are still buying branded drugs because of the lack of information that generic medicines carry the same efficacy as branded drugs.

“I think that what will happen eventually is that by popularizing these alternative generics, then what we’ll see is a fair market competition. That’s the only way to break the ‘cartel’ in the distribution of drugs and eventually if we have this Mercury (drugstore) pressured to bring the prices down,” he explained.

Aside from conducting an information campaign on generic drugs, Pagdanganan said they are also opening several “Botika ng Bayan” outlets all over the country to pressure multinational drug firms to reduce their prices.

He said they are targeting the setting up of 2,000 “botika ng bayan” and 8,000 “botika ng barangay” by the end of the year. “At the same time, we are working to support the local pharmaceutical industry,” he said.

He said they are also looking into allowing local drug manufacturing companies to produce generic drugs and off-patent medicines as one way of bringing down the prices of drugs.

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