Despite the significant decrease in prices of medicines as the share of generic medicines substantially grew over the years, demand for medicines among Filipinos has remained low because access still remains a big barrier, according to a study by government think tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS).

A joint policy note titled “Access to medicines in the Philippines: Overcoming the barriers” by PIDS President Gilberto Llanto,  and PIDS consultant Ramon Clarete showed that the market share shifted significantly from originator medicines to generics between 2006-2015.
Statistics showed that the market share of originator medicines had declined from 62.3 percent in 2006 to only 22.7 percent in 2015. For the generic drugs, it showed that unbranded accounted for 33.4 percent while the branded generics still at a higher 43.8 percent.
This means that more Filipinos now patronize the generic drugs, largely because they are cheaper than the originator medicines. Besides, they are also of the same quality at the originator drugs.
They noted that the increase in local market competition can be attributed to the implementation of Republic Act No. 6675, also known as the Generics Act of 1998, which has increased manufacturers of generic drugs giving innovators tough competition and forcing them to cut down their prices to defend their market share.
“In increasing competition forces, both originator and generic manufacturers will likely lower their own medicine prices to compete with each other and defend their market shares,” the authors elaborated.
But the authors observed that while medicine prices have gone down, the demand of the public for medicines was still low and did not indicate expanded access.
To resolve this issue, Llanto and Clarete advised government to expand its pooled procurement of medicines to attract more suppliers in the market.
Such action, the authors explained, will give the public sector leverage in getting medicine prices further down. “The government can then distribute the medicines it procures to the poorest populations that do not have the purchasing power to acquire medicines even at reduced prices,” they posited.
Other measures that government can consider, according to the authors, is to promote competition and improve access to medicine, such as through explicit allocation for medicines in the case rates of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth), extension of PhilHealth coverage to outpatient medicine prescriptions initially in public health facilities and eventually in accredited private sector drug outlets, pooling of financial assistance from state-owned corporations and agencies for catastrophic illnesses, provision of incentives to local government units to invest more in primary healthcare with medicines as integral part of their program, and tiered pricing of medicines. 

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