18 July 2009

Why Medicines in the Philippines are Expensive

A doctor-congressman has another insightful explanation on why prescription drugs in the Philippines remain unaffordable.

He pinpoints Mercury Drug, the country's biggest pharmacy, as the culprit.

With profits of over a billion pesos every year, it is not difficult to see that Biron has a point to isolate Mercury Drug as a major factor in this perennial problem. Can they cut their profit margins to the levels of Thailand and India?

Mercury Drug offers weekly discounts on select products, none of which have been in the prescriptive category. And, even if they did offer discounts, these are piecemeal only.

The pharmacy giant even has a rewards program in the form of "Suki cards," which hardly benefit majority of its customers. Mercury's only claim to public service rests in its age-old marketing tagline that states, "nakakasiguro, gamot ay laging bago [Translation - we assure everyone that our medicines are always new!]

Maybe it is time the lawmakers also look at the possibility of drafting laws to address the pricing policies of Mercury Drug Corporation.

Meanwhile, today is the deadline the President gave drug companies to voluntarily cut their prices by 50 percent. If not, she will sign an Executive Order forcing them to do so.

Will Arroyo sign such an instrument? With the State of the Nation Address a mere number of days away, there is strong possibility she will.

The days of cheaper medicines are coming?

Let's hope so.
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