Philippines Seeks to Pass Law Regulating Drug Prices

A law that would allow the government to determine the prices of pharmaceuticals is close to being approved by the Philippine Congress, backed by consumer groups, health workers, clergy, and others. The Drug Prices Regulation Act of 2005 would create a board under the Department of Trade and Industry, regulating maximum retail prices of drugs in the Philippines.

Lawmakers seek to lower the prices of drugs used to treat chronic illnesses and life-threatening conditions, and to require that prices be printed on their labels and packaging materials. The purpose of the bill is to let the government make drugs more affordable to the majority of the population in the Philippines. The bill has been approved twice, and awaits its final review in the July 2006 session of Congress. Drug manufacturers are opposed to moves by the government to lower the prices on their drugs, as this would undermine the considerable investment put into developing them. Multinational pharmaceutical companies currently make up about 70 percent of the local drug market.

This session of Congress will also debate a proposed amendment to the Intellectual Property Code of the Philippines. If passed, it would alter the patent law with measures aimed at lowering drug prices, including allowing tests of generic versions of patented drugs before their patent expires and prohibiting patents of new uses of existing substances.