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PCC tells pharma giants: ‘ We are watching you’

Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) Chairman Arsenio M. Balisacan told the pharmaceutical giants of the need to ensure access to affordable life-saving medicines and that it will remain ever vigilant to guard against anti-competitive and abuse of dominance especially at this time of pandemic.

In a Webinar on the Philippine Competition Act and its Implementing Rules and Regulations for Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines (PHAP), Balisacan warned that PCC will ensure large players compete fairly.  

He stressed that the need to ensure that supplies and prices of basic goods such as medicines are within reach of the average Filipino consumer has become more urgent especially in times like these.

“The PCC remains ever committed to creating an environment that improves access to affordable quality healthcare to all, but most especially the poor,” Balisacan told representatives from the world’s leading pharmaceutical giants.

He, however, noted that even before the pandemic the country’s healthcare system has already been afflicted by several ineffective policy designs and structures making it inefficient, inadequate, and inaccessible.

In the Philippines, he said, it is a privilege to afford and have access to quality healthcare. This is reflected in the collective long-term vision and aspiration of Filipinos of having access to and being able to afford quality health services and medicines.

Furthermore, total health expenditures continue to balloon, with out-of-pocket (OOP) expenditures remaining a huge portion – accounting for more than half of total health spending over the years. More than half of these OOP expenditures went to medicines. While the availability, prescription, and use of generics have generally been increasing, and medicine prices have been declining over time, for many Filipinos, these basic social services with their accompanying products remain inaccessible and unaffordable.

He told PHAP participants though that will remain ever vigilant and monitor the market for anti-competitive mergers and acquisitions, agreements, and abuses of dominance that affect the sector.

“We ensure that lower-priced and quality medicines remain available as large players compete fairly with small players,” he said.

He said much attention and focus have been trained on the healthcare sector’s gaps and inadequacies that have been revealed by the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This highly contagious disease has indeed shown policymakers that the healthcare system is only as strong as its weakest link. Therefore, it has become important as ever to strengthen each level of the healthcare sector so we can ensure that our country gets through the pandemic and be ready for future health challenges,” he said.

In saying this, Balisacan also said there could be options to implementing cheaper procurement for essential and life-saving medicines that would complement the Maximum Drug Retail Price (MDRP).

The MDRP under Executive Order 104 took effect early June this year. It slashes prices to as low as 50 percent off  current retail prices  of medicines  for  hypertension,  diabetes, cancer, asthma , analgesics, among others .

In crafting the MDRP under EO 104, the Department of Health noted that innovative medicines are out of reach of both patient and the government. For instance, the treatment cost per patient Nimotuzumab 50 mg/10 ml solution for IV for nasopharyngeal cancer is P540.014 while the Etanercept for rheumatoid Arthritis Psoriatic arthritis costs P858.494.

The wholesale prices of these medicines in the Philippines were also more than twice in other ASEAN countries and in other developed economies.

For instance, the cost of Afatinib 40 mg tab for lung cancer is P3,869.76 but only costs P1,639.31 in Vietnam and P1,792 in Malaysia.

Government efforts to bring down prices of essential and life-saving drugs started in 2009 with only 5 medicines included in the MDRP.

Source: Manila Bulletin (

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