Philippine Government Investment Agency to Provide Funding for Low-Cost Drug Program

The National Development Corporation (NDC), the investment arm of the Philippines Department of Trade and Industry, announced in October 2005 that it would raise P100 million (approximately US$1.8 million) in funding for the government’s national drugstore program. Through this program, which is being implemented by the state-run Philippine International Trading Corporation (PITC), special “Botika ng Bayan” accredited drugstores will offer quality, low-cost drugs at discounted prices. The NDC funding will be disbursed to PITC Pharma, Inc., a recently established company that is majority-owned by PITC. PITC Pharma, Inc. will oversee the pharmaceutical marketing and distribution operations of the drug program.

Under the “Botika ng Bayan” program, PITC Pharma, Inc. will procure and source essential, low-cost drugs from local suppliers, as well as through parallel drug importation. It will then make these drugs available at “Botika ng Bayan” drugstores, which will sell the drugs at prices 30% to 50% lower than other drugstores. The drugs sold at these stores include antibiotics and medicines that treat asthma, hypertension, and diabetes. In addition, the pharmaceutical firm GlaxoSmithKline recently entered into an agreement with PITC to make its branded medication available at all “Botika ng Bayan” drugstores throughout the country. There are currently about 600 “Botika ng Bayan” accredited drugstores throughout the Philippines. PITC Pharma, Inc. is aiming for a target of 1,500 stores by the end of the year, and 3,000 by 2010.

The Philippines government is also close to establishing a new Drug Prices Regulatory Board that will control the high price of medicine. Three legislative measures addressing the high cost of medication in the Philippines have been gaining support in Congress and local governments in recent months. Filipino House Bill 3830 calls for the creation of a Drug Prices Regulatory Board, which will regulate drug prices, and House Bill 305 aims to lower drug prices through a more effective drug regulatory system. Also, House Bill 499 proposes the shortening of the time period of patent protection of pharmaceutical products from 20 years to 10 years.

The National Drug Policy Program of the Department of Health (NDPP-DOH) has conducted studies which show that the prices of drugs and pharmaceutical products in Philippines are among the highest in the ASEAN region. Through all of the initiatives discussed above, the Philippine government is taking active steps to achieve its goal of cutting drug prices in half by 2010. The Philippines government’s commitment to make low-cost medication available to the majority of Filipino citizens is outlined in its Medium-Term Philippine Development Plan for 2005 – 2010.