Multinat'l firms blocking imports of cheap drugs

ABS-CBN, Friday 24 November 2000, 01:41 PM ZE8

MANILA (ABS-CBN)—Cheap imported medicine may not have a chance to proliferate in the Philippine market as soon as planned.

This after multinational drug companies filed a complaint against the Philippine government in court on grounds the importation of cheap drugs from India would arbitrarily hurt their share in the domestic drug market.

Earlier, an industry source said the government's importation move proves it does not recognize the rights of foreign drug firms to sell branded medicines. The source added the government might use this as a vehicle to eventually transfer drug importation to the private sector creating a monopoly in the local market.

The Department of Health (DoH), however, said it is planning to convince the court not to issue a temporary-restraining order (TRO) in the importation of 22 inexpensive life-saving medicines, expected to arrive before the year ends.

We are hoping that we can convince the court na huwag mag-issue ng TRO at pagnag-issue ng TRO mahihinto itong Christmas shipment namin ng mga gamot na we were hoping na sa pagdating ng Disyembre at January ay medyo mapababa natin ang presyo ng gamot. Ito ay isang pangako ng administrasyon magmula pa ng 1998, said DOH secretary Alberto Romualdez in an interview with DZMM.

(We are hoping that we can convince the court not to issue a TRO [temporary-restraining order] as the issuance may prevent us to proceed with the importation of the drugs due to arrive on Christmas. We were hoping that by December or January, we could already lower down the prices of drugs as promised by the administration since 1998.)

Romualdez added the government's move is only temporary, hoping it would eventually encourage drug companies to lower their prices.

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) estimates Filipino consumers will save 85 centavos once the importation of cheap medicines from India arrive.

The Philippine International Trading Corporation (PITC), the DTI's trading arm, said prices of medicine from India are about 10 times cheaper than that in the Philippines.

Citing a comparative study, the PITC said the retail price of Ventolin, an anti-asthma drug, costs P79.06 per 100 milligrams in India, or 73.17% less compared to the P294.75 price in the Philippines.

Also compared were prices of anti-hypertension drug Betaloc tablets, which sell for P1.50 per tablet in India, compared to P7.55 in the Philippines.

Humulin, a drug used to treat diabetes, is 49% cheaper in India at P409.34. It is sold at P806.50 in the Philippine market.

Other drugs to be imported are Augmentin, Bactrim, Ponstan, Adalat, Plendil, Coversyl, Lasix, Isordil, Daonil, Ciprobay/Baycip, Wyamox/Wymox, Zantac/Zinetac, Dilantin, Chloromycetin, Benadryl, Eltroxin, Maalox/Maloc, and Lomotil.

The purchased samples of drugs reportedly passed existing standards as examined by the DoH and the Bureau of Food and Drugs.