THE GOVERNMENT could issue an order this year that will cap retail prices of select medicines, even as a group of drug manufacturers argued that such a move was unnecessary.

During a public hearing on the plan on Wednesday, Drug Price Advisory Council (DPAC) member Diana Tamandong-Lachica said that the DPAC will have to determine which medicines will be covered by maximum retail prices (MRP). This will then be submitted to Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III who will send it to Malacañang for an executive order (EO) on the MRP.

“The Secretary of Health shall recommend the MRP list to the president of the Philippines and… upon approval of the president an executive order shall be issued ordering the imposition of the MRP on selected drugs and medicines,” Ms. Lachica said during the hearing.

The MRP will cover medicines for the top 40% of health problems in the country, including cancer, diabetes and hypertension.

The DPAC was formed by the Health department under implementing rules and regulations of Republic Act No. (RA) 9502, or the Universally Accessible Cheaper and Quality Medicines Act of 2008.

DPAC Chair John Q. Wong said that there is a need to regulate prices of medicine because the Philippines has the highest medicine prices in Asia.

“OECD countries have higher prices but we’re second to them and the highest among all of the Asian countries. This shows a pattern that our prices are almost the same as OECD countries but higher than Asian countries,” Mr. Wong said, referring to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

For the Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines, however, “the proposed imposition of maximum retail price is unnecessary” since RA 11223, or the Universal Healthcare Act, and RA 11215, or the National Integrated Cancer Control Act, “offer broader and sustainable approaches to improving access to medicines and health care.” It called for group procurement of medicines that “creates economy of scale which result in low transaction costs and better leverage in pricing negotiations and terms of contract.” — Gillian M. Cortez