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Duterte vows to sign medicine price cap ‘twice over’

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President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday assured the public that he would sign the draft Executive Order (EO) setting maximum drug retail prices (MDRP) even twice since it would be good for the Filipino people.

Once signed by the President, the EO is expected to cut prices of at least 120 drugs by around 56 percent from their prevailing market prices.

“I will sign it. I will sign it. That’s good for the Filipino, reduced prices or maintaining a price. I will even sign the document twice over,” Duterte said in an interview over dzMM.

Duterte said that the draft EO from the Department of Health has yet to reach his table, but guaranteed that he would sign it.

“Maybe they are reviewing it. Kapag nasa table ko sa gabi, binabasa ko (When it’s on my table during nighttime, I read it), I have not come across any, I heard of it but hard facts are not yet there. But in principle I will even sign it twice over,” he added.

The President has repeatedly said that providing a “more comfortable life” to all Filipinos is among his administration’s top priorities.

Duterte signed the Universal Healthcare Act into law in February 2019 to ensure that all Filipinos receive equal access to quality and affordable health goods and services by automatically enrolling them in the National Health Insurance Program (NHIP).

Late last year, the Department of Health (DOH) submitted a proposal for the imposition of MDRP to improve access to affordable medicine to all Filipinos, particularly those that address leading diseases and conditions such as hypertension, cardiovascular disease (CVD), and cancers among others.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III insisted that pharmaceutical companies should be sensitive to the needs of patients.

The Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association of the Philippines (PHAP) objected to the MDRP, warning that it could kill small retailers and force manufacturers to reconsider plans to launch new medicine in the country.

It also said that drug companies may even withdraw existing products, which would harm the public.

During a bilateral meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the sidelines of the 31st Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Summit in November 2017, Duterte said he is mulling more investments from India, particularly in the manufacture of cheaper medicine.

He said there might be Indian investors who may be interested in seeking a business venture in the Philippines in producing more affordable medicines.

Pharmaceuticals are the second biggest Philippine import from India and Indian pharmaceuticals are the biggest exporters of medicines to the United States and the European Union.

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