Bribery Disguised As Charity?: The Lobby VS The Cheaper Medicines Law (UPDATED With Pfizer Open Letter)
Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile is angry.
For good reason: the apparent success of the strong lobby of the pharmaceutical industry for the government to drag its feet in allowing the long awaited implementation of the yearold Cheaper Medicines Act.
The focus of JPE’s ire is the giant multinational drug firm Pfizer which has quietly been implementing a so-called discount program for its loyal partner doctors and their patients.
Nothing wrong with that, right?
What has surfaced is the recent offer of Pfizer to ‘donate’ 100-million pesos worth of such discount cards to Pres. Arroyo with the offer being made during a closed-door meeting in Malacanang.
The goal: to buy more time before they comply with the law while also delaying the presidential signing of the implementing rules for the cheaper medicines law mandating maximum retail price pegs for prescription drugs for hypertension, diabetes and similar formulations.
In plain, highwayman English the supposed charitable offer hade BRIBE written all over it as far as Senator Enrile and other crusading lawmakers are concerned.
I feel sick in my stomach that such brazenness was attempted.
Pfizer must convincingly explain its actions and not risk bigger public condemnation.
The albatross of corruption already hangs over the government of the day.
This presumably honourable pharma company should not lend its name to the already bad picture.
Pfizer’s Open Letter to the Filipino People:
We at Pfizer are deeply concerned by the accusations of bribery in recent news reports. We categorically deny this allegation and consider this a grave affront to our reputation.
Our company has always upheld the highest ethical standards in doing business around the world for the past 160 years.
We have an absolute commitment to the people of the Philippines to do what’s right legally and ethically. We strictly comply with all local laws as well as the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, and will never engage in any form of bribery.
We have always sought to provide wider access to our high-quality medicines.
In 2002, long before discussions on the Cheaper Medicines Act were started, Pfizer launched a patient care program that aimed to provide access to our medicines for a greater number of Filipinos.
Pfizer’s Sulit Patient Care Program has evolved into a comprehensive program aimed to achieve better health outcomes for patients by providing them with both discounts and relevant disease management information.
The program has benefited 1.8 million patients to date, including various sectors of the population, such as teachers, Overseas Filipino Workers (seafarers) and government employees.
In our desire to have more Filipinos benefit from Pfizer’s high-quality medicines and patient care program, we have volunteered to partner with the Department of Health to offer Sulit cards to 5 million more patients in national and local government hospitals and community health centers by the end of the year.
These discussions began in May 2009, prior to the announcement of the list of products subject to Maximum Retail Price. We are saddened that our sincere desire to help has been misconstrued as bribery.
We all share the common goal of a healthier Philippines.
Together with the industry, we have initiated meetings with government agencies to dialogue on possible solutions to address access to medicines with full transparency.
At Pfizer, we believe that more can be achieved through working in partnership and will continue our efforts to find solutions through constructive engagement with all stakeholders.