Bong Go pushes for cheaper medicines through expanded MDRP coverage

Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go expressed his support for the proposed expansion of the Maximum Drug Retail Prices (MDRP) list at the Senate session on Tuesday, October 5, after Senator Risa Hontiveros delivered a privilege speech on the matter.

“Mr. President, as Chairman of the Committee on Health and Demography, and an advocate of universal healthcare access for all Filipinos, I hereby manifest my support for the initiative to expand the Maximum Drug Retail Price or MDRP to ensure that our countrymen and women gain easier access to cheaper quality medicines.

As I have said before: Healthcare is a right, not a commodity,” Go manifested. Both Go and Hontiveros said that the matter must be addressed through the provisions of the Cheaper Medicines Act of 2008, which grants the President of the Philippines the power to impose maximum retail prices over medicines sold in the country, upon the recommendation of the Secretary of the Department of Health (DOH).

Go said he will personally discuss the matter with the President.

“I will suggest to President Rodrigo Roa Duterte the inclusion of all essential medicines in the proposed list of expanded MDRP and for its immediate release to complement the Universal Health Care Law.”

As Hontiveros stated in her speech, the latest Philippine National Health Accounts show that 41 percent of all healthcare spending in the Philippines is on pharmaceutical products or medicines.

Go echoed the sentiment. “According to data from the 2018 Medical Trends Around the World report of Mercer Marsh, essential medicines in the Philippines continue to be exorbitantly priced relative to international counterparts. Generic drug prices are also approximately up to four times higher than international reference prices,” he said.

He also emphasized that the government must serve the interest of the people over the interest of businesses.

“It is our moral duty as public servants and lawmakers to ensure that the health and medical needs of our compatriots are prioritized over the corporate interests of a few, especially in this day and age when the country’s medical inflation rate continues to rise rapidly, even outpacing our national inflation rate.”

In September, the DOH released a proposed list that covers 120 drugs addressing leading diseases and catastrophic conditions in the Philippines, such as hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, chronic lung diseases, neonatal diseases, and major cancers.

The list also covers high cost treatments for chronic renal disease, psoriasis, and rheumatoid arthritis.