AFFORDABLE MEDS. Executive Order (EO) No. 104 signed by President Rodrigo Duterte cuts the retail prices of some 87 high-cost medicines by up to 58 percent. With the signing of the EO, Filipinos would have fair and affordable access to medicines. (File photo)

MANILA -- The Department of Health (DOH) on Tuesday lauded the signing of Executive Order (EO) 104 cutting the retail prices of some 87 high-cost medicines by up to 58 percent.

In a press briefing at the DOH main office, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said the EO putting a price cap on selected medicines would improve access to Universal Health Care.

"The DOH submitted its recommendation to the Office of the President to expand the scope of medicines subject to MDRP (Maximum Drug Retail Price) to include 122 additional medicines," Duque said.

The proposed medicines in the list address leading diseases like hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, chronic lung diseases, and major cancers.

The list also includes high-cost treatments for prematurity, chronic renal disease, psoriasis, and rheumatoid arthritis requested by patient and consumer organizations as well as several medical societies.

Duque said the DOH, the Department of Trade and Industry and stakeholders are tasked to review the price reduction of the remaining 35 drugs to finalize the list covered by the EO.

He added that the ceiling prices for the 87 medicines with 133 formulations at the point of wholesale and retail shall already be imposed in both public and private drug retail outlets including chain and independent drugstores, hospital pharmacies, health maintenance organizations and other outlets within 90 days.

"The MDRP is still subject to special discounts to senior citizens and persons with disability," he said.

DOH Pharmaceutical Division chief Anna Melissa Guerrero said the average price reduction on the 87 medicines is 31 percent.

"So, how does the price reduction go? For example, insulin, its current price is PHP818 per pen, it will go down to PHP400," Guerrero said.

She added that the DOH also considered the prices of the 87 medicines in other countries compared to their prices in the Philippines.

To ensure the effective implementation of the EO on MDRP and disseminate the implementing guidelines to stakeholders, Duque said an administrative order would be implemented immediately.

He said the EO would provide Filipinos fair and affordable access to medicines and an opportunity for the industry and health institutions to be "socially responsible".

Duque cited a Pulse Asia Survey last year showing that 99 percent of Filipinos do not buy all of their prescribed medicines because of unaffordable costs.

"The survey also showed that 71 percent of Filipinos are only willing and able to spend less than PHP1,000 for a month’s supply of medicines, while only 24 percent are willing to spend up to PHP5,000," he said.

On Monday, President Rodrigo Duterte signed EO 104 titled "Improving Access to Healthcare through the Regulation of Prices in the Retail of Drugs and Medicines” to impose price regulation through a maximum retail price and maximum wholesale price on certain drugs and medicines. (PNA)