Sunday, November 25, 2007

Govt hospitals ordered to prescribe generics

By Joyce Pangco Pañares - Manila Standard Today

PRESIDENT Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has ordered the Department of Health to draft a circular requiring all government doctors to prescribe generic drugs pending the passage of a cheaper medicines law.

Mrs. Arroyo again slammed what she called “a cartel in the medicine industry” for refusing to release patents on their branded drugs as she reminded government doctors to do their share in the administration’s war against the cartel.

“The [health department] must draft this circular making mandatory for all government doctors to prescribe generic medicines, which are 50 to 75 percent cheaper but equally effective as branded drugs,” she told barangay officials as she discussed the “Half-Priced Medicines Program” aimed at cutting by half the cost of medicines by 2010.

Mrs. Arroyo also distributed to residents certificates to operate Botika ng Barangay outlets and 125 scholarship vouchers from the Technical Education Skills Development Authority.

The Botika ng Barangay serves as the health department’s distribution network for cheaper medicines from India, which are imported by the state-owned Philippine International Trading Corp.

There are now over 10,409 Botika ng Barangay nationwide, selling amoxicillin, cotrimoxazole, paracetamol and multi-vitamins.

Earlier, the President called on lawmakers to scrap the price control provision under the Cheap Medicines Bill in an attempt to hasten its passage.

Mrs. Arroyo said an “acceptable minimum” must be reached to ensure that pharmaceutical companies did not succeed in delaying further the passage of the bill.

“During the last Congress, it was passed but it did not reach the bicameral panel. Now, there is a bone of contention as to price control and maybe we can remove some controversial provisions so an acceptable minimum can be reached,” she said.

She said the law would help destroy the industry cartel that she claimed controlled at least 70 percent of the market.

“At least 90 percent of our medicines now are off patent, but still 90 percent of the medicines circulating nationwide are branded and are more expensive than their generic counterparts. So I am encouraging all of you to prescribe generic medicines and support our vision of cutting the prices of medicine by half come 2010,” she said.

Also yesterday, Iloilo City Rep. Ferjenel Biron, the main author of the cheaper medicines bill pending in the House, said he supported the President’s proposal to bar doctors from specifying brands in their prescriptions. With Romie A. Evangelista

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