Cheap shot from the House on the Cheap Meds bill
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2008-05-01
We get cheap shots from our Congressmen all the time. Their idea of public service is serving bovine ordure.

They tried to solidify their hold on power by ramming Con-Ass down our throats. They made a travesty of democracy by scuttling the process of impeachment and securing evil rule. Recently, they tried to mess around with the health of the nation’s poor.

The House version of the Cheaper Medicines bill is spiked with horrendous dangers. It totally ignored public health and safety and aimed only to drive tested drugs and companies with long-established reputation out of competition. It has the hallmarks of a bill that can only be driven by people who are salivating to fill the void when legitimate drug companies, big or small, are removed.

In my series of columns (visit ‑ Jan. 22, 24, 27, 29, 31 and Feb. 3), I discussed the alarming implications of the House version of the bill. I was in hospital confinement a week before I wrote the series and my doctors alerted me on the dangers that lie in wait in case the House version is passed.

When the exposes coming from this Chair Wrecker and other writers were hot, the proponents of the House bill became noticeably subdued. Rep. Ferjenel Biron of Iloilo, main author of the bill, even went through the motions of telling Philippine Medical Society spokesperson Dr. Minguita Padilla that he was willing to withdraw the provision on generics-only prescribing. Biron even blamed the Department of Health for inserting it in the bill without his knowledge.

Last week, the House proponents reactivated their old chants which accused Senators and anyone against the House bill of being in the payroll of pharmaceutical companies. When Senator Mar Roxas, proponent of the Senate version calling for “affordable, quality medicines” asked them to name names, they could not name a single one.

The move was designed to put public pressure on the Senators, to force them to adopt the House version. As it turned out, the Congressmen caved in — apparently due to Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s desire to sign the Cheaper Medicines bill in time for Labor Day.

Rep. Ferjenel Biron of Iloilo is a major importer of generic drugs. He stands to gain if the generics only provision and his idea of a price control board in the bill get passed.

Apart from the heaps of money to be earned from imports, it will be picking season for copycats who have not invested a cent in R&D and do not even have a reputation of ethical practice to draw on. Use Google to find the numerous Indian and Chinese generic drug makers who have been at odds with the law.

Unlike all American and other global companies, these Indian and Chinese generic drug makers are not signatories to the FCPA, known as the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. It is highly unlikely for signatories of FCPA and its non-American global equivalent to pay for influence.

Companies who can sell fake or substandard drugs that can harm and kill patients won’t have any qualms about lining the pockets of lawmakers. Local distribution companies would find these inducements irresistible.

We all decry the high cost of medicines. My household budget for medicines is over P60,000 a month and I am certainly an advocate for price cuts in medicines. But ‘cheap’ medicines, regardless of quality or efficacy, is out of the question — it is something I, along with my transplanted kidney, will reject in the strongest possible terms.

Russian roulette will be a better alternative medicine to end the health problems of our poor than legalized ‘cheaper’ medicines that can either be fake or substandard.

The Senate version upholds the doctor’s right to prescribe what is best for patients, including specifying brand names in certain cases. Trust your doctor, not your congressman, for your health.

The House wanted to create a regulatory body to establish prices. There is justified fear that the proposed regulatory body is prone to political influence and will be used to favor a new cartel.

Mar Roxas has a long experience in price regulation and he knows that it is important to vest that responsibility and accountability on specific entities and individuals, such as the Department of Health and a BFAD that will be boosted to meet the task.

But what is disturbing is the recent assertion of another congressman, Rep. Joseph Emilio Aguinaldo Abaya of Cavite, that there is a multi-million PR or slush fund to discredit the Cheaper Medicines Bill and its Senate authors. Abaya was referring to fellow House members who were rocking the boat.

“Millions of ailing Filipinos have much to lose if this urgent health bill is delayed further or derailed permanently. In the 13th Congress, the House failed to pass this measure due to lack of quorum. Today, some legislators are out to discredit this measure and its proponents by saying that it is “watered-down,” Abaya was quoted.

From what Rep. Abaya disclosed, it is obvious who is operating with a lobby fund.

  Previous Columns:

It had to happen on The Ides of March and Holy Week

Suggested guidelines for liability- free Internet posts

Election lawyer: PCOS critics should put up or shut up

All Excited by Pope Francis

A great disservice to P-Noy

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