IT WON’T be over even after the lady signs. And even after she signs it, the fight for popular access to affordable medicines won’t be over.
All that the cheaper medicines bill needs to be enacted into law is the signature of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. But some legal experts lament that as enrolled, the bill passed by Congress bears “imperfections” that effectively affirm the patent rights of big pharmaceutical companies over public health, a major hurdle to bringing down drug prices.
THE 2001 World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference in Doha reaffirmed that the TRIPS Agreement “can and should be interpreted and implemented in a manner supportive of the WTO members’ right to protect public health and, in particular, to promote access to medicines for all.” The Declaration sustained the right of developing countries like the Philippines to enforce public health safeguards so as to enable price reductions via generic competition. “Paragraph 6 Public Health Solution” of the Declaration even directed WTO member countries to facilitate access to generic medicines by poor countries with insufficient or no pharmaceutical manufacturing capacities.
BY THE time Hazel Divinagracia-Coton’s grandfather suffered his second heart attack last February, he was already on medication for diabetes. After the attack, 69-year-old Lolo Rodolfo was put on more medication, this time for his heart condition.
In total, his doctors prescribed 17 kinds of medicine for him to take each day, putting a strain on his family’s finances. Lolo Rodolfo and his wife relied on a P14,000 monthly pension, but with the promise of some monetary help from the rest of the family, they hatched a plan that had them buying only the “more important drugs” — worth a total of P600 a day — to see him through.
SO THINGS haven’t quite turned out as planned for Philippine generic-drug manufacturers and distributors. In fact, says Janet Estrañero, sales and marketing vice president of Pacific Pharmaceutical Generics that is the exclusive distributor of DLI Generics products, it’s all been a big disappointment.
“(The situation) is very, very far from what we expected it to be 18 years after the enactment of the generics law,” she says.
AMONG ALBERTO Romualdez Jr.’s saddest experiences as a physician, one that he says he continues to encounter, involves his regular trips to the drugstore. “You cannot miss this scene,” shares Romualdez, who was the health secretary during the brief presidency of Joseph Estrada. “Somebody with a prescription, say for antibiotics for one week, comes up to the sales clerk and pleads, ‘This is the only money I have. Is it possible to buy just one or two tablets or whatever this amount can afford?’”
BUT not quite with the look that we wanted just yet, and it may take a few more weeks before this nth transformation of i Report is completed. We couldn’t wait, however, because while we may not be married to any format, we are certainly committed to our readers and to what we do. For richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health.
THE YOUNG mother was frantic. A seven-month-old baby was burning with fever in her arms, barely able to breathe. The doctor at the rural health unit quickly attended to the child, who was suffering from serious respiratory tract infection. But she had no medicine to give the baby: her supply of Ventolin or salbutamol, which would have given the infant instant relief, had run out.