The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) is aiming to link local pharmaceutical manufacturers with their Indian counterparts as part of efforts to increase the availability of low-cost medicines in the Philippines, a trade official announced on Wednesday.
In the BusinessMirror’s Coffee Club forum, Trade Undersecretary Nora K. Terrado said the DTI is scheduled to return to India to further deliberate the government’s plan to import pharmaceutical products from India. This is in compliance with President Duterte’s initiative to allow India-based firms to export cheap and effective medicines to the country.
“We need to study the right model, and we, in fact, have a plan of going back to India in the second quarter to be able to expand the discussion,” Terrado said. She noted there was understanding and determination from both Manila and New Delhi to make the Philippines the next export market of Indian pharmaceuticals.
Terrado said the DTI is determined to push through with the import plan because it was an initiative by Duterte himself. “Going back to the 10-point [socioeconomic] agenda, we have to impact the poorest of the poor. We have to provide our people the ability to buy affordable, quality medicines. We are talking of medicines that poor people should have access to.”
Terrado cited as examples medicines for diabetes and hypertension, which she said are expensive when purchased in the local market. “What we did in India, aside from having this discussion, is we scanned the market and really went around to look for medicines.”
“The brands that we saw there were actually far cheaper than the ones we have. The disparity in prices is really evident,” Terrado added. However, the trade official clarified local manufacturers will not be left out in the process, saying they will take part in this initiative and will even have the chance to establish ties with their Indian counterparts.
“We will have that conversation, that planning session with the local industries through the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce Philippines Inc. and local manufacturers,” she said.
She added what the government is asking from local manufacturers right now is openness to competition and the opportunity to provide Filipinos additional options in terms of having access to medicine.
“We need to link up the local industry with the Indian industry to have that conversation because our role is to create partnerships, and we want it to be market-driven and we want to make sure that the beneficiaries are the people,” Terrado said.
Conversation on allowing Indian pharmaceuticals to enter the country’s market began when the President had a bilateral meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi last November. As part of renewing ties with New Delhi, Duterte said Manila would like allow India-based businessmen to look at the country as a potential market for medicines.
The President also said the government can no longer allow American pharmaceutical products to dominate the country’s market because of its expensive prices. He said Indian medicines are not only effective, but are also affordable, making it suitable to a developing country with a populace that spends more on health.
Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority reported Filipino households saw their out-of-pocket expenditures for health go up by 52.4 percent in 2016. The PSA also said households spent P342 billion for their various health needs, such as medicines, food supplements, pharmaceutical products and diagnostic needs, among others, in 2016. The increase in out-of-pocket expenditures contributed to the 10.5-percent hike in the total health expenses to P655 billion in 2016, from P593 billion in 2015. This summed up to a contribution of 4.5 percent to the country’s GDP.
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