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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Deport pharmaceutical execs who tried to bribe Malacanang, Drilon urges

Former Senate President and Liberal Party (LP) National Chairman Franklin Drilon said today foreign executives of giant pharmaceutical companies who allegedly tried to bribe Malacanang to prevent the implementation of the Cheaper Medicine law should immediately be deported from the country.


Drilon was reacting to the claim of senators Monday that Pfizer Philippines, a multinational drug company, allegedly attempted to "bribe" President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo through the Department of Health (DoH) with five million "sulit (discount) cards" to be distributed to indigent patients around the country.


"If proven true, the foreigner (drug company executive) who secretly met with Malacanang executives and allegedly tried to bribe President Arroyo to impede the implementation of the Cheaper Medicine Law should be immediately deported for conspiring against the interest of the Filipino people," Drilon said.


"This is grand treachery against the Filipino people, especially the poor who could hardly afford the high cost of medicine," Drilon said, adding that giant multinational pharmaceutical companies should not be exempted from the equal application of the law. "Nobody should be above the law, not even those powerful and influential foreign executives of giant pharmaceutical companies," he pointed out.


Malacanang on the other hand, Drilon added, should stop "playing politics with public health and people's lives" and immediately order the immediate implementation of the Cheaper Medicine Law.

Media reports said the executive, Reiner Gloor, director of the Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines (PHAP) which is an umbrella organization of 50 multinational drug companies, said that Pfizer's offer was not a bribe.


But Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, said the offer was apparently aimed at influencing President Arroyo against signing an executive order, drafted last month by the DoH, which will cut drug prices in half in accordance with the Cheaper Medicine Law. Malacanang said it rejected the offer from Pfizer Philippines.


Drilon explained that Gloor and his fellow pharmaceutical executives could be charged with attempted bribery as well as with violation of Article 186 of the Revised Penal Code known as "Monopolies and Combination of Restraint in Trade" if it were proven that they attempted to stop the implementation of the Cheaper Medicine Law.


The "Monopolies and Combination of Restraint in Trade" provision in the penal code prohibits businessmen and industry leaders from engaging in "cartel practices" to manipulate prices of basic goods in the market, Drilon said.


Drilon said President Arroyo should sign the month-old draft executive order imposing the Maximum Retail Price (MRP) on essential medicines.


"It is the president's duty to implement the law regardless of who gets hurt," Drilon said. "Malacanang need not wait for the voluntary compliance from these big-time foreign pharmaceutical companies."


"It is unfortunate for the Filipino people that the implementation of the Cheaper Medicine Law is being unduly delayed because of the apparent strong influence of the pharmaceutical lobby on Malacanang,' Drilon deplored.


Earlier, Liberal Party President Sen. Manuel "Mar" Roxas II revealed that President Arroyo met with officials of giant pharmaceutical companies on July 8 ostensibly to block the implementation of the maximum retail price (MRP) on 22 essential medicines.  


The Cheaper Medicine Law, principally authored by Roxas in the Senate, increases people's access to cheaper medicines by imposing an MRP, which will slash drug prices in half.


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