Sunday, July 29, 2007

Generic Drugs Law Gets New Facelift

MANILA, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / 29 Jul) – A Filipino senator is pushing for a new law that aims to provide greater access to low-priced medicine through the rigorous enforcement of the Generic Drugs Law.

Senate Bill 268, authored by Sen. Loren Legarda, seeks to create a new Generic Drugs Board to thoroughly review, monitor and supervise the law's strict enforcement.

"Lost in the drive to make cheap medicine more accessible to Filipinos is the spineless enforcement of, and inadequate compliance with the almost decade-old Generic Drugs Law," Legarda said in a statement sent to the Mindanao Examiner.

Under the bill, the punishment for violators would be increased in order to strengthen compliance.

The new board would probe Generic Drugs Law violations; recommend the license suspension or cancellation of erring practitioners and firms, after investigation; and periodically endorse to Congress new measures needed to make the law more responsive to changing market conditions.

This in turn may be attributed to the lack of a specific agency exclusively tasked to purposely build up conformity with the 1998 Generic Drugs Law, also known as Republic Act 6675.

"The Generic Drugs Law is definitely poorly enforced. Just about anyone who has consulted a physician recently can attest that chances are you are getting a brand-name drug prescription. You seldom get a generic drug prescription," Legarda said.

"Yet, the law clearly mandates the use of generic terms not only in drug labels and advertisements, but also in prescriptions," she pointed out.

Generic drugs are just as potent but typically 80-percent cheaper than their brand-name versions.

The Generic Drugs Law requires the use of generic terms in the importation, manufacture, distribution, marketing, advertising, promotion, prescription and dispensing of all drugs.

At present, disregardful practitioners draw penalties ranging from a simple reprimand from the Professional Regulation Commission, to a fine of at least P10,000 and one-year license suspension. The maximum penalty would be raised to a fine of at least P50,000 and two-year license suspension or longer under Legarda's bill.

Firms violating the law now draw a fine up to P10,000, business license suspension/revocation and/or six to 12 months imprisonment for their officers. This would be increased to a P50,000-maximum fine and/or at least 12 months in prison under Legarda's bill.

Legarda is also supporting the Cheap Medicine Bill approved by the Senate in the previous Congress, but which the House failed to pass. "We are in fact looking to consolidate our proposed Generic Drugs Law reforms with the cheap medicine bill," she said.

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