THE greatest barrier to access to medicines in the Philippines is pricing, according to a report released this January by a pharmaceutical company. 

“It often boils down to affordability rather than availability in the Philippines,” said Dr. Jorge G. Ignacio, a medical oncologist interviewed in the Access to Medicines Progress Report 2022 by Takeda.  

Dr. Ignacio, chair of the Cancer Institute at the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital, cited the treatment of Hodgkin lymphoma as a cost-as-barrier-to-access example. 

“Historically, we have had to treat the condition with the same medicines that we gave non-Hodgkin lymphoma patients. This is not because specific options aren’t available, but they are completely out of reach in terms of pricing and are not covered under national insurance schemes,” he said.  

Access to medicines should be “universal, convenient and able to reach all patients who would need them,” he added. 

The Patient Access Programs of Takeda have helped over 300 Filipino patients access and complete their course of treatment for Hodgkin lymphoma since 2017.  

“In the Philippines, we’ve channeled our efforts to providing holistic solutions to transform lymphoma care in partnership with the country’s healthcare system,” said Loreann E. Villanueva, country manager of Takeda Philippines, in a Jan. 30 press statement.   

“We hope to bring the same patient-first, holistic, and collaborative approach to broaden access to medicines for other rare diseases as well, so that we can help the country realize its goal of providing universal healthcare to Filipinos,” she added. 

According to the report, patients from low- to middle-income countries have experienced a “disproportionate” effect on access to the medicines they need this pandemic. 

“Barriers to access are often embedded within healthcare systems that are still maturing and not yet able to support the delivery of crucial services,” the report added. — P. B. Mirasol