By Rhia de Pablo
Saturday, May 17, 2008
It has been reported that the Philippines has the most expensive medicines in Asia which is next only to Japan; so by advocating the cheaper medicine bill, a Filipino-owned pharmaceutical company eyes more growth potential in their operations.
According to the Philippine International Trading Corp. (PITC), the cost of medicine here in the country is higher by 40 percent to 180 percent compared to other Asian neighbors. Citing an ASEAN survey, PITC said the retail prices of medicine in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand are 40 percent to 70 percent lower than in the Philippines.
This is the primary reason that a group of local pharmaceutical companies have branded together and was introduced to the local market last year to address the issue on the affordability of medicines without compromising the health of consumers, said Vamsler Philippines, Inc. Regional Operations Coordinator for Vis-Min Aileen A. Salinas in an interview.
InnoGen Pharma Group Inc. is composed of nine companies assigned to cover different therapeutic areas such as neurology and psychiatry, dermatology, pulmonary, obstetric and gynecology, cardiology and gastroenterology, internal, and endocrinology.
These companies include: Aldril Pharmaceutical Inc.; Eadrix Pharmaceuticals Inc.; Metz Pharmaceuticals Inc.; Randril International Co. Inc.; Solvang Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; Westfield Pharmaceuticals Inc.; Vamsler Philippines Inc.; Vitalink Health Products Inc. and Dr. Zen’s Research Inc.
An industry research reported that the growth of pharmaceuticals in the country is driven by higher prices making it out of reach to 40 million or half of our population as showed by the great disparity between the industry’s increase in its year-on-year value with the volume or units of medicine that is actually being sold.
Salinas said that the high prices for medicine can be attributed to the country's lack of price control mechanisms as foreign multi-national companies influence the prices of medicine in the country because they control 70 percent of the Philippine market.
The country is actually the first in Asia to enact a Generics Law to provide greater access to safe and affordable medicine, but this law has not really resulted in the widespread availability and affordability of important drugs to the poor largely because it led to the emergence of a two-tiered market controlled by big companies that pay more focus to the manufacture of high-end branded medicines.
Now with the advent of the cheaper medicines bill which proposes amendments to the Intellectual Property Code of the Philippines, supporters believes that once it gets enacted into law, it will lead to greater competition as it will loosen the monopolistic or oligopolistic power that multinational drug companies have long been enjoying.
Salinas added that, this bill will open the opportunity to smaller companies who had difficulty entering the market as well as to local companies who make generic products.
“Multinational companies are threatened with innovation brands just like us because of our pricing. The bill would work at our advantage especially that we position our brands in the market as affordable so that a lot of Filipinos can afford,” said Salinas.
InnoGen’s medicines are locally produced by Lloyd Laboratories, Inc. in its plant in Bulacan. Recently, the group launched its newest antithrombotic product in Cebu called as Clopivaz. Currently, they are advocating Pharmacovigilance, a standard of the pharmaceutical industry to monitor safety and efficacy of medications.