Who Is Afraid of Price Control for Medicines?

Who is afraid of drug price regulation?

Certainly not the patients, who stand to gain much if prices of much-needed medicine are immediately reduced to low, very inexpensive levels. Definitely not the doctors, who will finally see their patients able to comply and adhere to their medical treatment. And absolutely not the general public, who may yet enjoy a better life when even the most essential and life-saving drugs become affordable.

Who, then, is afraid of drug price regulation? The big pharmaceutical companies and their proxy representatives, who continue to raise the specter of “abuse”, “over-regulation”, “regulatory capture”, and other “complex problems” supposedly posed by price controls.

Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD) today reiterated its calls for a strong drug price control and greater regulation of the entire drug industry as means to immediately reduce drug prices and provide any meaningful impact on the public. This is in reaction to reports that Congress has removed the provision on the drug price regulatory board in its consolidated version of the Cheaper Medicine Bill.

“Given the highly monopolized character of the industry, no genuine competition will prosper as it is the inherent nature of monopolies to suppress competition, as what happened with the Generics Law. Regulation at this juncture is therefore both a moral and political imperative.” said Dr. Gene Alzona Nisperos, HEAD secretary-general.

Because of the stifling stranglehold of big pharmas, the number of local Filipino drug manufacturers has been greatly reduced, from around 300 in the 1980s to only 27 today, 8 of which are up for sale. Many of these companies are manufacturing only specific drug lines and cannot yet provide genuine competition to big trans-national corporations (TNCs) or provide a backbone to a strong generics industry here.

In contrast, more than 70% of total drug sales are accounted for by pharmaceutical TNCs, earning some 58.5 billion pesos for the top 10 drug TNCs (excluding United Laboratories) in 2006. By July 2006, the pharmaceutical market grew by 7.4% in value but declined by 3% in volume, reflecting growth that is mainly driven by price.

“All talk about the so-called market forces coming into play is deceptive. These so-called market forces have been around for more than 20 years and have not affected any real change, which is why we are still faced with exorbitantly priced medicine.”

Added Dr. Nisperos, “If Congress is going to give the President the power to regulate drug prices, they are not just ensuring “regulatory capture”, they are promoting political expediency. Our legislators are expected to uphold the people’s interest and not exhibit their shameless mendicancy to the President.”

HEAD believes that the current status quo is unacceptable, especially when government line agencies like the Department of Health and the Bureau of Food and Drugs remain incapable of controlling the unscrupulous profiteering by big pharmaceutical companies.

“Filipino patients are dying or being maimed en masse because they cannot afford the medicine they need. If we truly have the interest of the Filipino patient at heart, then regulation is a requisite, not an option, in making medicine affordable in this country.” concluded Dr. Nisperos, “Anything less is a return to the status quo and an absolute betrayal of this interest.” ####


Dr. Gene Alzona Nisperos

Secretary-General, 0916 214 5724

Dr. Geneve E. Rivera

Deputy Secretary-General, 0920 460 3712


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