Monday, July 13, 2009

Senate Roxas Vows to Unmask "Conspiracy" vs Cheap Meds Law as Oversight Committee on Quality Affordable Medicine Summons PGMA Herself on the Issue

13 July 2009

Senator Roxas continues to pursue his advocacy on cheaper medicine as he urges Mrs. Arroyo to proceed with the much-delayed signing of the Executive Order that will impose Maximum Retail Prices (MRP) for 22 essential medicines. 

The Senate Oversight Committee on Quality Affordable Medicines will look into this issue in a Senate hearing at 9am today and also into what Senator Roxas called a "secret meeting" last July 8 in MalacaƱang pointing to what he sees is a "conspiracy" between palace officials and giant pharmaceutical firms. 

Below is the full text of the press release issued by the Office of Senator Roxas yesterday, July 12:
Press Release
July 12, 2009


Liberal President Senator Mar Roxas today vowed to unmask the 'conspiracy' among giant pharmaceutical companies and the government, as he pressed President Arroyo to sign the executive order imposing Maximum Retail Prices (MRP) for 22 essential medicines.

Roxas, co-chair of the Quality Affordable Medicines Oversight committee, has invited the President and her men, as well as representatives of multinational pharmaceutical companies, to attend a hearing on Monday to shed light on their 'secret meeting' last July 8 held at MalacaƱang.

"Mahalagang malaman natin kung ano ang napagkasunduan sa miting na ito. Isang taon na ang nakalipas ngunit hanggang ngayon ay hindi pa rin naipatutupad ang Cheaper Medicines law. May kinalaman ba rito ang pagpupulong na ito?" asked the primary author of the Universally Accessible Cheaper and Quality Medicines law.

"Matagal nang hinihintay ng ating mga kababayan ang pangako ng pamahalaan na ibaba ang presyo ng mga gamot. Ano na ang nangyari sa pangakong ito, napako na naman ba?" he asked.

He noted the Department of Health has transmitted to the Office of the President the executive order that would bring down the prices of 22 essential drugs by half as early as June 16. President Arroyo has yet to sign the executive order.

The oversight panel would inquire, among others, into details of the July 8 meeting, status of the EO and updates on the implementation of the law, the emergence of marketing discount schemes of drug companies and the availability and affordability of medicines and diagnostic kits for A(H1N1) influenza.

Roxas said he would get into the bottom of what seems to be a 'conspiracy' to circumvent the application of the one-year old law.

In particular, he would like to find out if the delay in the EO's signature is the direct result of the July 8 meeting. No less than Trade Secretary Peter Favila had confirmed the meeting and had admitted the MRP was the central agenda of the discussions.

"Ano pa ba ang hinihintay ni GMA at ayaw pa rin niyang pirmahan itong EO na ito? Halos isang buwan na itong nag-iipon ng alikabok sa kanyang mesa," the Visayan senator said.

"Ang daming oras na nasayang. Ang laking ginhawa na sana ang naibigay natin sa mga kababayan natin kung pinirmahan agad ang E.O.," he said.

Some of these drugs whose prices will be halved are the anti-hypertensive Norvasc (to P22.50 from the present P44.50), anti-diabetic Diamicron (to P7.35 from P14.75), antibiotic Augmentin suspension 60 ml (to P179.50 from P359), among others.

Aside from President Arroyo, also invited to attend Monday's oversight committee hearing are Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, Health Secretary Francisco Duque, DTI Secretary Peter Favila, Budget Secretary Ronaldo Andaya, Presidential Legislative Liaison Office Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Joaquin Lagonera and officials of pharmaceutical firms.

The oversight panel will also inquire into the affordability and availability of medicines and testing kits for A(H1N1).

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