Duterte signs order capping retail prices of medicines

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Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte signed an executive order (EO) that would set a maximum retail price on selected medicines. AFP

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has signed an executive order (EO) that would set a maximum retail price on selected medicines.

Senate Health Committee chair Senator Christopher “Bong” Go, Duterte’s long-time aide, made the announcement in an interview on Quezon City-based DZMM Radyo Patrol on Monday morning. “President Duterte already signed the EO.”

The Department of Health (DoH) previously proposed the regulation prices of over 120 drugs used to treat several diseases and health conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, chronic lung diseases, neonatal diseases or those affecting newborn babies and major cancers.

Under the Maximum Drug Retail Price scheme, the price of selected medicines is expected to have an average price reduction of 56 per cent from current market prices.

“This has been a law for so many years now,” Go said, referring to Republic Act No 9502, or the Universally Accessible Cheaper and Quality Medicines Act of 2008, which provides for the imposition of a limit on prices of medicines.

“We all know that a lot of Filipinos need medicines. They have no choice but to buy these medicines even if they are expensive so that they can live longer. Like medication for diabetes, hypertension, cancer and other medicines,” Go added.

Duterte also appointed former Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) acting president Roy Ferrer as DoH assistant secretary.

Ferrer was among those appointed this month along with several others, according to a list of presidential appointees released on Monday.

Ferrer resigned from PhilHealth in June 2019 following controversies hounding the state insurance firm, involving the alleged funding of bogus dialysis treatment for patients who are already dead.

Duterte, however, cleared Ferrer of any wrongdoing as he did “not have the slightest doubt about the integrity and honesty” of the official.

The list of new appointees include former Intercontinental Broadcasting Corporation president Katherine “Kat” De Castro who was appointed board director at the People’s Television Network, Inc; Attorney Lorna Kapunan who was named Cultural Centre of the Philippines board member; and DoH spokesperson Eric Domingo who was appointed Food and Drug Administration director-general after serving as it’s officer-in-charge since May.

Meanwhile, former presidential spokesperson Harry Roque is set to file before the Office of the Ombudsman a case of graft against six more PhilHealth officials for alleged issuance of fake receipts to overseas Filipino workers.

“On Wednesday, we will file another case against the corrupt officials of PhilHealth to ensure that when an epidemic strikes, they will not feast on funds meant for the treatment of the sick,” he said in an interview with radio station Radyo Inquirer on Monday.

Roque said an overall revamp is needed in the senior executive level of the agency and not only to previous members of the board of directors who were earlier asked by Duterte to submit courtesy resignations when the ghost dialysis treatment scheme was unearthed.

He reiterated that the top leadership in PhilHealth was the real “mafia” in the agency.

In August, Roque, one of the primary authors of the Universal Health Care Law in the House of Representatives, also filed graft and other complaints before the Office of the Ombudsman against former and current officials of PhilHealth over alleged irregularities that involved 90 million pesos ($1.8 million) in government funds.

PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER/ASIA NEWS NETWORK