THE government needs to buy medicine in bulk to realize savings on drug costs for consumers, rather than imposing price controls, the pharmaceuticals lobby said.

The Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines (PHAP) said Thursday that the proof of concept was government hospitals, where medicine is cheaper because the government can drive prices lower by virtue of its being a bulk purchaser.

PHAP Executive Director Teodoro Padilla said in a statement: “The Department of Health (DoH) should consider making these hospitals major outlets of medicine. We have been making medicine available to the government at very low prices through bulk procurement and we are committed to keep doing this.”

Buying in volume drastically cuts drug costs. According to the DoH Drug Price Reference Index (DPRI), breast cancer medicine costs P38,372.00 per vial for 100 units but P13,000 per vial for 6,100 units.

Government hospitals also sell cholesterol and hypertension treatments at about P0.35 and P0.19 per tablet respectively. Purchased from private hospitals and at retail, the cost escalates to P71.55 and P33.75 respectively, with hypertension medicine at P38.50 per tablet.

PHAP said with the Universal Health Care (UHC) Law passed this year, the government should maximize its opportunity to negotiate lower prices with pharmaceuticals firms under the law’s bulk procurement provisions.

PHAP called bulk buying a better option than price controls.

The DoH is looking to impose pice controls on 122 medicines treating the Top 40 ailments in the Philippines. The drug list will be contained in an Executive Order (EO) to be issued by President Rodrigo R. Duterte.

The DoH has said that the Philippines has some of the highest drug prices of medicines in the region.

PHAP countered that “Medicine prices in the Philippines are comparable with those in ASEAN countries. For some medicines, Philippine medicine prices are lower compared with Malaysia and Thailand.”

“An anti-diabetic 80 mg tablet is being sold at P7.13 in the country but is priced at (the equivalent of) P9.17 in Thailand and P10.19 in Malaysia. Insulin sold in the country for P713.44 is priced at P968.75 in Thailand,” PHAP added. — Gillian M. Cortez