Villar to heed doctors’ plea on cheaper medicines bill

MANILA, Philippines — Senate President Manuel Villar said Friday he would look into the provision of the Quality Affordable Medicine bill which sought to bar doctors from prescribing branded drugs to their patients.

Villar, in an interview with private dzMM radio, said that he would ask the ongoing bicameral conference committee tackling the cheaper medicine bill to heed the Philippine Medical Association’s (PMA) plea that the questioned provision be deleted.

While he claimed that he usually did not interfere in the affairs of the bicameral committee, Villar said he would look into the measure seeking the mandatory prescription of generic drugs “so that this would not be a problem to doctors.”

“For me, it is not important if the Senate or the House version is approved. What is important is that the version that will help the public should prevail. But the welfare of doctors is also important to me,” said Villar.

Senator Mar Roxas, the main author of the bill in the Senate, said he preferred that the matter be tackled in a “fair, open and transparent” manner to create the most effective law to bring down prices of medicine and to ensure that they are safe.

“As co-chair of the bicameral panel on the Quality Affordable Medicines bill, I will conduct a fair, open and transparent discussion on all provisions, to ensure that no agenda other than the people’s welfare will prevail,” the chair of the Senate committee on trade said in a statement.

“I urge the proponents of the bill in the lower house to hold a dialogue with the PMA so that their concerns can be properly addressed before both panels meet to consolidate the two versions. That way, we will be able to come up with the best bill for our people’s urgent needs,” Roxas said.

Doctors belonging to the PMA have threatened to walk out of their jobs if Congress did not delete a provision in the pending cheaper medicine bill which forces physicians to prescribe only generic names of drugs to their patients.

The Senate passed its version of the bill last November 5, while the House passed theirs on December 20.

Doctors currently prescribe both branded and generic alternatives to customers but the House version, if upheld, will bar this practice. The Senate version does not have this provision.By Gil C. Cabacungan Jr., Beverly T. Natividad Philippine Daily Inquirer First Posted 01/18/2008

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