DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez (file photo)

MANILA – The government is pushing for policies that will attract pharmaceutical firms to set up their facilities here that will boost the country’s capacity to manufacture generic medicines, Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Ramon Lopez said.
In a webinar Wednesday, Lopez said the administration is pushing for measures to provide greater access to affordable medicines, especially for the poor.
“One of the ways in which the DTI is working toward this goal is through the strengthening of the country’s capacity to manufacture and supply generic medicines. This is meant to ensure their adequate, equitable, affordable, and efficient supply especially at this crucial time when the health of the majority of Filipinos is at stake,” he said.
He added the Philippines is a viable location for pharmaceutical firms, as the country is a good source of natural ingredients and herbs used in making medicines worldwide.
With this, the country could be a manufacturing hub for pharmaceutical companies in the region, the DTI chief said.
“These companies can benefit from our country’s young and technologically-skilled manpower, strong government support, good policy environment, and regulatory incentives,” Lopez said.
Through the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises (CREATE) Act, the government gives tax perks to pharmaceutical firms establishing their facilities here.
Aside from medicines, the government encourages vaccine manufacturers, particularly those manufacturing jabs against coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19), to produce the much-needed vaccines in the country.
Meanwhile, Medicines Transparency Alliance (MeTA) chair Roberto Pagdanganan said the group supports measures that boost supply of generic medicine and lower their prices in the local market.
Pagdanganan said the Philippines has the highest out-of-pocket expenses as a percentage of total health care expenditure in the region at 54 percent in 2018.
This is relatively higher than Vietnam at 44.9 percent, Malaysia at 35.1 percent, Indonesia at 34.8 percent, Singapore at 31 percent, and Thailand at 11 percent.
“This is aggravated with the onset of Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.
Meanwhile, Pagdanganan highlighted milestones in the country in promoting generic medicine. These include the Generic Act, National Health Insurance Act, Cheaper Medicines Act, Universal Health Care Act, founding of the Philippine Pharma Procurement, Inc. (PPPI), and the launching of the Botika ng Bayan Program.
To give better access to cheaper medicines for the poor, he said the government should expand its Botika ng Bayan in all hospitals and pool the procurement of medicines through PPPI for distribution in Botika ng Bayan outlets in government-run rural health units and hospitals.
He added medicines for tuberculosis, hypertension, diabetes, and other ailments should also be available in Botika ng Bayan outlets. (PNA)