Philippine President Signs Cheaper Medicines Act

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo of the Philippines signed Republic Act no. 9502 on June 6, 2008. This Act is officially titled the “Universally Accessible Cheaper and Quality Medicines Act of 2008,” and was originally proposed in October 2007.

The new law amends the Pharmacy Law (Republic Act no. 5921), the Intellectual Property Code (Republic Act no. 8293), and the Generics Act of 1988 (Republic Act no. 6675).

The Intellectual Property Code amendments allow for parallel importation of cheaper drugs and medicines from abroad whose local patents have not expired. In addition, it allows generic drug manufacturers to experiment, produce, and register patented drugs before the expiration date of the patents. This way, generic drug companies will be able to market their product immediately after patent expiration. The law will also make drug patents more difficult to obtain in the future, by disqualifying newly discovered uses of known drugs.

The amendments to the Pharmacy Law allow pharmacies and licensed retailers to sell OTC products. The amendments to the Generics Act would require drug manufacturers to produce, distribute, and make widely available unbranded generic equivalents to their branded drugs.

The President has also been given the power to impose price ceilings on various drugs based on recommendations from the Health Secretary. These include drugs for prevention of disease, for chronic illness, and others listed in the Philippine National Drug Formulary Essential Drug List.

Finally, the Quality Affordable Medicines Oversight Committee will be established to monitor the implementation of this new Act.