The people have spoken. The Universally Accessible Cheaper and Quality Medicines Act of 2008 or RA 9502 is a failure! Once again, the government has failed in its attempt to make prices of essential medicines cheaper and more accessible to the vast majority of ailing Filipinos.
Some legislators’ finger-pointing and childish bickering over the law’s failure will never ease up the poor people’s burden on expensive medicine. The law itself is inherently flawed.
The Consumers’ Action for Empowerment believe that the law, like all other previous government responses, failed because:
- The new law does not have any provision which removes the control of transnational corporations on all aspects of the industry;
- Though 80-90% of essential drugs sold in the Philippines is already off-patent, the law places much emphasis on patents instead of developing a sound local drug industry;
- Despite clamor and strong recommendation of health sector representatives and people’s organizations during public hearings, the law omitted the creation of a Drug Price Regulatory Board which could have ensured the democratic representation of consumers and other stakeholders;
- The law does not truly support the development of a local drug industry. Drug importation, including parallel importation, promotes the policy of dependence that can eventually kill the local drug industry.
Because of these flaws, the Cheaper Medicine Law is not the answer to inhumane drug prices simply because it does not address the long-term issue of self reliance. Instead, the government relies heavily on importation rather than developing our own drug industry. Moreover, there is no genuine political will to fully implement laws that will address the root of the problem: monopoly control.
Consumers’ Action for Empowerment says that while the passage of a law that aims to lower the prices of medicine is a welcome step, the law in its current form has proven to be another token measure of the government that do not really reflect the needs of the people and has failed to bring a substantial change to the plight of sick Filipinos.
The issue of access to essential medicine is just a mere slice of the cake. Access to essential medicine is part of a people’s inherent right to health. Unfortunately, in a society where the nation’s resources have become an exclusive privilege of a few, that right is never freely given – it is fought for.
The need of Filipinos for efficacious and affordable medicine can only be met when a strong national health care system is in place and under a government whose policies are in the best interest of the people.#
Consumers’ Action for Empowerment<