A LEGISLATOR has filed a bill seeking to lower the price of medicines and medical equipment.

Albay Rep. Jose Maria Clemente S. Salceda, who also heads the House ways and means committee, filed House Bill 6219 on Thursday, which, if passed, will be known as the Affordable Medicines, Medical Equipment and Supplies Act (AMMESA).

“Under the existing Cheaper Medicines Law, we were able to set a Maximum Drug Retail Price (MDRP). Ang problema doon, the richest half of the population account for 65% of all expenditures on healthcare. And those under poverty line spend only 10% of health expenditures. Ibig sabihin, ang mahirap, hindi pa rin nakakabili ng gamot,” Mr. Salceda said in a statement, citing data from the 2015 Family Income and Expenditure Survey.

Under House Bill 6219, the Secretary of Health will be able to negotiate the prices of all medicines, including medically necessary assistive equipment and medical supplies purchased by the government.

This will compel companies to price these products lower if they want to sell medicine in the Philippines, since the government will be a single-payer system under Universal Health Care.

“Yung MDRP kasi (the MDRP), while it sets essentially a price ceiling on the price of medicines, kung mataas naman ’yung MDRP, mataas pa rin yung kailangang bayaran (if the MDRP is high, then what has to be paid is still high). We should optimize the bargaining power of the state under a single-payer system,” Mr. Salceda said.

The bill also urges the Philippine National Drug Formulary to encourage the use of generics whenever possible.

“’Yung bill ko nirerequire na kung wala namang pinagkaiba ang generic at branded, encouraged ang doctor na generic ang ireseta (My bill requires that if there is no difference between the generic and the branded medicines, then doctors are encouraged to prescribe generics),” Mr. Salceda explained.

The bill also requires that the Philippine National Drug Formulary “include best-practices in prescribing”; discourage the use of “ineffective, dangerous, or excessively costly medications when better alternatives are available”; and “encourage the use of generics to the greatest extent possible.”

“The system will still be primarily market-based, but we will no longer allow branded and expensive medicines to drive prices up. Kumbaga, wala na whims ng market lang, may mas malawak na control na ang taumbayan. If companies want access to the Philippine market, they will have to produce the most effective drugs at the cheapest price they can sell at,” Mr. Salceda said.

Salceda’s bill also includes “medically necessary assistive equipment” such as wheelchairs and prosthetics, and medical supplies such as surgical masks and syringes in the MDRP.

“Ang konsepto kasi ng public health noon sa Pilipinas, sakit lang (the idea of public health in the Philippines was only illness). We have not thought of disability or of prevention as part of public health. This bill puts an end to that. That’s why it is literally lifesaving and life giving. Kung kasama sana sa MDRP ang surgical masks, halimbawa, nalimitahan sana natin ang overpricing na nakikita natin ngayon (If surgical masks were included in the MDRP, for example, then the overpricing that we are seeing today would be limited),” Mr. Salceda said. — Genshen L. Espedido