Proponent of cheap medicine law sees early passage

South Cotabato Rep. Arthur Pingoy Jr.,  a medical doctor and co-author of the cheap medicine bill in the 13th Congress, said a significant number of members of the House of Representatives have expressed support to the measure and expedite its passage.

Pingoy, who is eyeing the chairmanship of the House committee on health in the 14th Congress, said President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has also certified the bill as urgent.

"It is now one of the priority measures of the House so there's a big chance that it will become a law soon," he said in a radio interview.

The proposed law seeks to expand the coverage of the national government's half price medicine program, through the parallel importation of patented medicine, so more poor people could benefit from it.

The House measure specifically enhances the parallel importation of patented medicine to accommodate larger market of distributors.

In endorsing the measure, the President earlier said the program, which is being implemented by the Philippine International Trading Corporation, could include any drugstore willing to sell the commonly used medicines at cheaper prices.

The initial version of the proposed measure, House Bill 6035 or the Half Price Medicine Bill, was approved on second reading last February 20 but it remained pending due to the conduct of the midterm national and local elections. The Senate version, Senate Bill 2263, was approved on third reading last January 31.

The bill was calendared for third reading during the special sessions earlier this month but House members failed to take up the matter.

After the passage of the House version of the bill, Pingoy said they will immediately push for the convening of the bicameral conference committee to iron out the disagreeing provisions of the House and Senate versions of the bill.

He said the bicameral report will later be transmitted to both chambers for ratification and eventually submit the consolidated version to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for signing.(Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)