A Revolutionary Beginning 

     In 1986, the National Drug Policy (NDP) was created under the leadership of then Health Secretary Alfredo Bengzon to address issues on access and affordability of essential drugs. Following shortly, the Generics Law of 1988 was passed to promote, require and ensure the production of an adequate supply, distribution, use and acceptance of drugs and medicines identified by their generic names.

     The historic passing of the Generics Law and the first National Drug Policy (NDP) were designed to set up reforms on how medicines are supplied and distributed in the country, assure their safety and quality in the market and encourage prescribers, dispensers and consumers to choose and use generics that will generate the most health benefits and cost savings to individual patients, the health system and the country at large.

     The first NDP focused on five (5) key action areas, known as the PQRST pillars: 1. P-eople empowerment to assist patients in making informed choices with regard to their medicines; 2. Q-uality assurance of drugs; 3. R-ational drug use by health professionals and consumers; 4. S-elf sufficiency in the manufacture and supply of drugs; and 5. T-ailored procurement to achieve efficiency and economies of scale in pharmaceuticals.

     For more than 20 years, the Philippines has worked towards improving access to medicines grounded on the pillars of the NDP and the Generics Law to address the drug needs of Filipinos undertaking large-scale national health programs for priority diseases and guiding health providers in the rational and cost-effective use of medicines in public health facilities through the essential medicines concept adopted in the selection of drugs for the Philippine National Drug Formulary (PNDF).

The Pharma-50 Program

     In 2001, the Philippine government embarked on a mission to improve access to medicines with the Medium Term Philippine Development Program (MTPDP 2001-2005, 2005-2010) under then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo clearly articulating its objectives to "reduce the prices of the medicines commonly bought by the poor to half of their 2001 levels by 2010." The Pharma-50 unit, an ad-hoc unit, was then created to establish thousands of community drug outlets nationwide known as the Botika ng Barangay to fill the need for medicines in underserved and far-flung communities. The government also initiated the parallel drug importation program to source lower priced medicines from other countries like India and Pakistan. In 2008, Republic Act 9502 otherwise known as the Universally Accessible and Affordable Quality Medicines Act of 2008 was passed giving additional powers to government to regulate drug prices and use TRIPS flexibilities for patented medicines addressing diseases of public health importance. From an ad-hoc unit, the Pharma-50 became the National Center for Pharmaceutical Access and Management (NCPAM) which was established on January 8, 2010 to operationalize, strategize and implement the national medicines policy and the provisions of RA 9502. Its primary goal is to attain and sustain universal access of all Filipinos to medicines by 2015.

     Other major programs of the NCPAM include: (a) the Generics Advocacy which aims to promote the use of generics among health professionals and the public; (b) the Philippine National Formulary which is an integral component of the Philippine Medicines Policy (PMP) that aims to guide prescribers, dispensers and consumers on the rational use of medicines; (c) the Electronic Drug Price Monitoring System (EDPMS) which enables the monitoring and analysis of medicines prices in the market; (d) the Medicines Access Programs (MAP) for priority diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, cancers, HIV/AIDS and essential medicines for mothers and children.