Drugs sold in RP are the most expensive in Asia: gov’t exec

Posted on May 28, 2006. Filed under: News |

Published on May 28, 2006 issue of SunStar Manila
http://feeds.manilanews.net/?rid=5d91ba79d14bc9ac&cat=3e5bbccc730d258c&f=1

Lawmakers involved in drug cartel, according to group

Secretary Roberto Pagdanganan of the Philippine International Trading Corporation (PITC) said on Saturday that pharmaceutical companies in the country employ a certain method that makes the cost of medicines sold here very expensive.

Pagdangan said a number of pharmaceutical firms in the Philippines use the “greening patent” method or a modification of an existing drug whose patent is about to expire in order to extend its rights.

“Drug companies claim drugs are so expensive because they need to cover their very high research and development (R & D) costs. In 2001, they placed this at US$802 million for each new drug they bring to the market,” Pagdanganan said, adding that the strategy is meant to trick consumers and the government to ensure they would have their patent extended.

Pagdanangan said such practice makes “the Philippines as the country with the highest cost of drugs in Asia next only to Japan.

Drugs sold in the Philippines, according to Pagdanganan, are 40 percent to as high as 200 percent more expensive than those sold in other countries. This is despite that the fact the country is the first to pass a Generic Drugs Act.

Aside from this, he also said that while the patents of about 85 percent of drugs sold in the country have already expired, the cost of such medicines are still high because of a “cartel” operating in the Philippines.

Former senator Wigberto Tañada, for his part, said 70 percent of the P100 billion that drug companies earn every year goes to multinational firms that have the “power and influence” among “those who are in and out of government”.

Tañada is a member of Ayos na Gamot sa Abot-Kayang Presyo (Agap) organized by the Fair Trade Alliance (FTA), which is a coalition of organizations and individuals that campaign for lower priced medicines and broadening the people’s access to health care.

Despite the challenge, Tañada said the coalition will not be shaken and they vowed to campaign for cheaper drugs.

Meanwhile, Raul Segovia, head of the Citizens Alliance for Consumer Protection (CACP) revealed that several lawmakers are “involved in the pricing of goods”. He did not name the legislators concerned.

According to Segovia, about 20 to 26 pharmaceutical companies give certain congressmen perks and other financial benefits and allows them to participate in the pricing of drugs.

Citing a report from a recent World Trade Organization (WTO) meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, Segovia said the problem of the high cost of medicine is a global issue and it is due to the government’s decision to grant patents to multinational pharmaceutical companies.

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