Deadlock over cheaper drugs bill
Senate, House panels still stuck on "generics-only" provision
THE SENATE AND THE HOUSE of Representatives are still deadlocked over a controversial provision in the proposed "cheaper medicines" law that requires doctors to prescribe only the generic name of drugs.
The Senate panel in the bicameral conference committee have stuck to their position against the so-called "generics-only" provision. "I believe it is still the doctor who knows what his patient needs," said Sen.Manuel Roxas II, principal author of the Senate version of the law and chairman of the Senate bicameral panel.
He said the existing Generics Act already requires doctors to write down a medicine's generic name in their prescriptions at the same time allows doctors to recommend particular brands."We don't want to merely pass on the problem of selection of the branded drugs from the doctor to the (drugstore) sales girl," Roxas said.
In an earlier interview over radio, Senate president Manuel Villar said he was willing to accept the House version of the bill, including its "generics-only provision."
"As the president of the Senate, I am willing to accept the version (of the House) just to have this bill on cheaper medicines be passed into law," he said."
As a compromise during the last bicameral meeting, the House panel led by Palawan Rep. Antonio Alvarez has suggested a three-year "sunset provision" so that the generics-only provision would only take effect three years after the law was passed.
The Senate and House bicameral panels have already agreed on all other provisions of the cheaper medicines law, which mainly aims to bring down the cost of medicines in the country through the parallel importation of cheaper medicines from abroad.
Both panels have also agreed on empowering the President upon the recommendation of the health secretary to impose drug price controls in case of a national emergency.
"We agree that prices of medicines will be lowered by increasing competition locally, by bringing in more affordable drugs from abroad and by easing the present restrictions for generics manufacturer," Roxas said.
Sen. Pilar Juliana "Pia" Cayetano has also been adamant against the generics-only provision. She said local drug companies would be put at a disadvantage since multinational drug companies could offer drug outlets lower price mar-ups for their products.
The Philippines Medical Association, the country's biggest organization of doctors, has earlier threatened to go on boycott in protest of the generics only provision.
Roxas said a technical working group composed of Senate and House staff would work during the congressional recess to finalize details of the proposed law. Congress resumes sessions on April 28, 2008.
The proposed cheaper medicines law has been discussed since the previous 13th Congress. Dona Pazzibugan/ Philippine Daily Inquirer
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