The proposed affordable medicines law was identified as an “urgent” piece of legislation way back year 2001. It is now 2008!!! After 7 long years, it seems that our dear leaders are finally pushing for the realization of this important bill which will greatly benefit the Filipino hoi polloi.
However, there are still two versions of the bill: House Bill 2844 and Senate Bill 1658. I find the senate version more diplomatic and safe while the house bill includes more drastic measures. For example, HB 2844 proposes the creation of a “Drug Price Regulation Board” which will dictate the maximum retail price of drugs subject to price regulation. SB 1658 on the other hand, “bestows on the President of the Philippines the power to impose price ceilings…under certain conditions, including calamities, public health emergencies, or widespread acts of illegal price manipulation.” Moreover, HB 2844 calls for the prescription of “generic name” only. This means that doctors will not be allowed to write the “brand name” of a drug in the prescription form if the house bill is approved.
The Congress, Senate and Malacañang are currently on a dialogue regarding the reconciliation of the two bills. The “price regulation board” and “generics only” provisions would be dropped probably. This move would definitely disappoint certain groups like the “Kilosbayan Para Sa Kalusugan” (KBK). The KBK feels that proposed amendments are still protective of the profits of transnational drug firms.
This is true perhaps, but I still support the bill because of the following articles:
- Parallel importation and international exhaustion of intellectual property rights for patents – Importation of much lower priced identical drugs without the consent of the patent holder will be allowed.
- Early working – This will allow Filipino generic companies to study and test for regulatory approval of a generic version of a drug before its patent expires. Thus, they can start the manufacture and marketing of a generic drug as soon as its patent expires.
- Government Use – In certain conditions, like “a national emergency”, the government may use a patent without the consent of the patent holder for the benefit of the public.
- Strengthening of the Bureau of Food and Drugs – The bureau will be allowed to retain earnings for use in its operations.
- Amendments to the Intellectual Property Code of the Philippines – Changes in the IP code to prevent multinationals from exploiting the Philippine patent system.
I know that it is no easy task to pass a bill and that it requires in-depth analysis and consultation. Thus, the process is understandably lengthy and arduous; but I believe we can no longer dilly-dally given the increasing population and worsening conditions of the impoverished in the country. So, to our beloved legislators, PLEASE HURRY UP!!!
References and recommended readings: