Bill strengthening clinical trials for drugs hurdles House panel

By Filane Mikee Cervantes

February 28, 2024, 8:06 pm

<p><em>(PNA file photo)</em></p>

(PNA file photo)

MANILA – A measure seeking to accelerate the discovery and development of innovative medicines by strengthening clinical trials hurdled committee level at the House of Representatives.

During the hearing on Wednesday, the House Committee on Health, chaired by Batanes Rep. Ciriaco Gato Jr., approved House Bill 9867, otherwise known as the proposed Pharmaceutical Innovation Act.

Gato emphasized the need to critically examine the current regulation and clinical trial activities to provide more affordable and wider array of medicines.

“There is a clamor to improve our access to innovative medicines by assessing and redesigning the present clinical trial system and possibly by establishing a center which shall serve as a pharmaceutical hub for medical research and development,” said Gato.

Speaker Martin Romualdez, the main author of the bill, said the conduct of clinical trials has been recognized as a scientific and research-based approach that helps medical researchers and developers optimize benefits, reduce risks, and ensure the safety and efficacy of innovative medicines.

Romualdez lamented recent data showing a steep decline since 2014 in the number of new clinical trials conducted in the Philippines.

He said the decline not only widened the gap between the country and other leading countries, but more importantly contributed to the inaccessibility of innovative medicines to Filipinos, with only one of the 166 innovative medicines launched internationally being added to the Philippine National Formulary.

“As such, there is a need to revitalize the Philippines as a regional center of excellence in the field of clinical trials and improve access to innovative medicines by building and redesigning our clinical trial system, through the establishment of an Experimental Drug Development and Discovery Center,” he said.

Deputy Majority Leader and Tingog Party-list Rep. Jude Acidre said the proposal would also position the Philippines to be a global leader in research, which will have far-reaching implications on the country’s healthcare system, economy, and international standing.

During the hearing, Dr. Diana Edralin, president of Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines, cited challenges in the review timelines, limited infrastructure, and support mechanisms, as well as lack of public disease registries as factors that have impacted the country’s clinical trial competitiveness affecting patient access to medicines.

“The bill holds potential to address these (challenges), positioning the Philippines as the center of clinical trials in the region,” she said.

The Philippine Chamber of Pharmaceutical Industry saw the advantages of the bill, encouraging advancement in health care, economic growth, and access to new medicines, as well as in the research and development ecosystem in the Philippines and inter-agency collaboration and coordination. (PNA)