Saturday, June 7, 2008
LAGUNA HOSTS PRESIDENT ARROYO'S SIGNING OF CHEAPER MEDICINES LAW
The province of Laguna headed by Gov. Teresita “Ningning” S. Lazaro is now in the annals of history as President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signs this morning (June 6, 2008; around 10:30 am) a new law that will curb down the price of medicines. This is through the encouragement of more competition in the local market through parallel importation of affordable but quality drugs.
The historic event took place at the Laguna Provincial Hospital Compound which is just beside the Laguna Provincial Capitol in the capital town Sta. Cruz. Prior to this, Mrs. Arroyo together with her entourage toured the adjacent and newly renovated Laguna Chest Center. This P5M high-tech facility was funded by the national government to cater the respiratory ailments of the Lagunenses particularly patients suffering from tuberculosis.
The President was assisted and accompanied by Laguna officials led by Gov. Lazaro. Other visitors and guests who graced the occasion were Senators Edgardo Angara, Bong Revilla, Pia Cayetano, and Mar Roxas, the law’s principal author. Mrs. Arroyo later on turned-over Philhealth cards to the underprivileged before boarding her chopper to visit Amherst Laboratories, Inc., a pharmaceutical facility in Mamplasan, Biñan, Laguna.
With the enactment of Republic Act 9502, or the "Universally Accessible Cheaper and Quality Medicines Act of 2008," the national government will now have a chance to help the local generics industry by amending the Intellectual Property Code. This will then strengthen the regulatory powers of the Bureau of Food and Drugs against substandard medicines. “With the signing of the cheaper meds bill we have completed our legislative reforms. We all know about the importance of the Generics Law before but it was incomplete, and now with the cheaper medicines and quality bill we have completed, I believe, our legislative reforms will bring affordable medicines to the people.” the President said.
President Arroyo also said that the measure was part of the government’s efforts to make medicines affordable to the people, especially to the poor who are already burdened by high prices of oil, electricity, and food. She then directed the Department of Health to come up with the implementing rules and regulations within 120 days. The agency, for its part, said the new law would allow it to expand a program to deliver affordable medicines to the grassroots.
With the new law, any individual or organization registered with the Bureau of Food and Drugs may import medicines and sell them cheap to the public.
Other salient features of the new law include:
• Prohibition of the grant of new patents based only on newly-discovered uses of a known drug substance;
• Allowing local generics firms to test, produce and register their generic versions of patented drugs, so these can be sold right upon patent expiry ("early working principle");
• Allowing the government use of patented drugs when the public interest is at stake;
• Giving the President the power to put price ceilings on various drugs, upon the recommendation of the Secretary of Health. These drugs include those for chronic illnesses, for prevention of diseases, and those on the Philippine National Drug Formulary (PNDF) Essential Drug List;
• Strengthening the Bureau of Food and Drug Administration so that it could ensure the safety of medicines, by allowing it to retain its revenues for upgrading of its facilities, equipment and human resources; and
• Ensuring the availability of affordable medicines by requiring drug outlets to carry a variety of brands for each drug, including those sourced from "parallel importation," to give the consumer more choices