Why only now, GSK?

March 5, 2009 at 3:10 am 15 comments

Spending my morning scanning the pages of newspapers, I saw a one-page ad of GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) in Philippine Daily Inquirer, announcing that it has dropped the prices of most of its major medicines by 30 to 50 percent. This was supplemented by a press release in Commuter Express, stating that the campaign aims to make quality medicines affordable to more Filipinos.

This got me thinking. Why only now, GSK?

GSK has been in the Philippines for several years now. It is known for its banner asthma brand Ventolin, a product my sister-in-law uses. I myself have patronized Gardasil, GSK’s anti-cervical vaccine. Hindi matatawaran ang galing ng GSK (no one can doubt the quality of GSK products).

But the move to reduce its prices leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Why only now? For years, medicines in the country are so expensive that not all Filipinos can afford them. If not for the efforts of Unilab and Pascual Lab, I can just imagine the plight of millions of Filipinos who cannot get well because they can’t afford to buy the medicines.

And now that the Cheaper Medicines Bill has been enacted into law, allowing Filipinos to have access to quality and affordable medicines, I feel that this price reduction move of GSK is just a sorry attempt to save GSK’s bottom line. Honestly, if GSK was really concerned with the welfare of the Filipino people, GSK could have slashed its prices many years ago. The attempt to reduce GSK’s prices just reeks of insincerity.

And here’s the fine print. Below the print ad are three bullet points, stating the conditions of the price reduction scheme. The first two bullet points are okay but the third one is the clincher

1. Ang pagbaba ng presyo o discount ay maaaring magbago depende sa gamot, pero halos lahat ay nasa 30-50% range. (The price reduction or discount may change depending on the medicine, but almost all prices are within the 30-50% range.)

2. Kumunsulta sa doktor para malaman kung angkop sa iyo ang mga gamot na ito. Kailangan ng reseta ng doktor para makabili ng mga ito. (Consult with your doctor regarding the most appropriate medicine for your health condition. A prescription is required to buy these medicines.)

3. Maliban sa reseta, kinakailangang sumali sa patient programs para makakuha ng discount sa mga gamot na gamit sa mga pang-matagalang sakin. Sumangguni sa inyong doktor para makasali. (Aside from the prescription, you need to join GSK’s patient programs to avail of the discounts for maintenance drugs. Ask your doctor on how to join.)

Why is the third point important? The third point merely tells us that the price reduction is not good for everyone, that to be able to avail of the discount, one has to join GSK’s patient programs. But what if the patient doesn’t want to join the program but is in dire need of the medicines? Does it mean he will not be able to avail of the discount? What if the patient is not aware of the program but his family needs to buy the medicines right away? Does the patient have to go through all the process of registration, processing and all to avail of the discount?

Truth be told, if GSK wants to safeguard public health, then it should just reduce its prices across-the-board and without the need to enrol a patient in a program. Unilab and Pascual are able to do this. Their prices are affordable across-the-board. If local pharmaceutical companies like Unilab and Pascual can do it, then I don’t see any reason why GSK can’t follow suit.



Entry filed under: Health. Tags: , , , , , , , , , .

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15 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Ronx  |  March 8, 2009 at 3:59 pm

    E di lumalabas parang nakatali sa GSK yung mga patients na nakaenroll sa patient program nila? In any case extra hassle pa sa part ng pasyente.

    Too late the hero na nga sila. Buti na lang talaga may mga katulad ng Unilab. (o, wag lalaki ulo nyo!)

  • 2. pinayandmoney  |  March 8, 2009 at 4:24 pm

    hahaha. mabait naman ang unilab, ronx. napilitan din magbaba ang GSK ng meds nila kasi halos 50% ang price difference ng unilab meds counterparts. =D

  • 3. victor cajoles  |  March 10, 2009 at 4:34 am

    kayo talaga, di na kayo nasanay…
    that’s why the word “catch” is not only a verb. it’s also a noun.

  • 4. Anto Cometa  |  March 10, 2009 at 11:16 am

    Well, we can ask why now but I’m just happy that they’ve made their quality medicines more affordable. And I think there are a lot of people who will benefit from this also. Maybe the question to ask is when are the other companies following suit?

    As for the whole patient enrollment issue, I think they are probably referring to long-term illnesses where you would need to consult your doctor to get a prescription. I think these are meds that you can’t just suddenly decide to buy. So I guess if your doctor does recommend the medicine and you decide you want to get it, you might as well enroll in the program and buy it cheaper.

  • 5. pinayandmoney  |  March 10, 2009 at 11:29 pm

    thank you for your comments, anto. the answer to your question “when are the other companies following suit?” is that local pharma companies like unilab and pascual/pharex have implemented low prices for their medicines ever since time immemorial. providing quality and affordable medicines have always been their business model. and these medicines include maintenance drugs. so GSK’s move to lower its prices is in no way monumental or groundbreaking because local pharma companies have been doing this for many years now.

  • 6. pinayandmoney  |  March 19, 2009 at 9:59 am

    please visit http://www.pinoymoneytalk.com

  • 7. jenny jacinto  |  April 1, 2009 at 10:50 am

    well the reason why they should enroll on patient programs is para ma track ng gsk kung sinong doctor ang ok ang patient flow… and then kapag ok si Doctor A (na maraming enrollments), sya ang pupunta sa Asia (lets say 100-200 enrollments), or US (200-400 enrollments) and lastly, Europe (top enrollers)…

    regarding sa prices , all they have to do is to increase their volume of sales through patient programs… o di ba ang saya??? mura naman talaga yung medicines and vaccines, magaling lang mag brand si gsk na iba pag may quality…

  • 8. pinayandmoney  |  April 1, 2009 at 5:12 pm

    jenny, you’re absolutely right. it’s a tactic to compel doctors to prescribe more GSK products.

  • 9. Eugene  |  May 3, 2009 at 8:29 pm

    While I agree that Unilab and Pascual have lower prices than the multinationals, their prices are still expensive compared to true generics… get a copy of MIMS or PDR, then compare it to the generics sold in Bambang – you will be shocked by the price difference (on average 50% to 75% less).

    It is interesting that you got vaccinated with Gardasil… for women in a monogamous relationship, its usefulness is debatable.

  • 10. Eugene  |  May 3, 2009 at 8:36 pm

    Just as an example – on an earlier post you seemed quite pleased that Unilab’s Mefenamic Acid was 17% less than Pfizers which costs around 20 pesos… believe it or not, generic mefenamic acid sells for less than 1 peso… no that is not a typo… ONE peso.

  • 11. pinayandmoney  |  May 6, 2009 at 7:48 am

    @eugene, you’re right in saying that there are more medicines that are priced lower than unilab and pascual. but are these trusted pharma companies? am i sure 100% that, let’s say, a paracetamol tablet contains the required amount of ingredients?

    i’ve wary of the many placebo drugs in the market today. take the case of the glutathione tablets that korina sanchez exposed. even the more popular ones do not contain the right amount of glutathione. if that can happen to whitening products, it can happen to drugs, too, especially to what i call backyard pharma companies. they sell a mefenamic tablet for one peso but am i sure of its quality?

    that’s why i praise unilab and pascual because they are trusted manufacturers of medicines. if i see that another pharma company is trusted and produces high-quality meds, i would surely buy their products, too.

    thanks for visiting!

  • 12. youthopia  |  May 7, 2009 at 11:59 pm

    GSK must be somehow sincere with their commitment because they will also be losing money with this initiative. They’ve started the price reduction programs few years ago with ‘Value Health’ and it seems that it has a positive impact for the patients and the company that’s why I think they’re making a big leap also for their major brands like augmentin and Cervarix (cevical cancer). Our family doctor told me that Patient Programs/ Enrollments aim to guide ‘patient compliance’ especially to maintainance meds like for BP and diabetes..

    Good job GSK!

  • 13. pinayandmoney  |  May 8, 2009 at 8:55 am

    @youthopia, thanks for visiting Pinay and Money. GSK may be lowering prices of medicines in the Philippine but why do you think it’s part of the US pharma association that lobbies US to penalize the Philippines for the Cheaper Medicines Law? Isn’t that opposite of GSK’s claim of providing affordable medicines?


  • 14. carla  |  May 21, 2009 at 8:37 am

    close to my heart ang issue na ‘to since i used to work sa pharma industry..and talaga naman some multi co. sobrang taas ng presyo. cheaper pa nga if you ask relatives abroad to buy for you eh.
    …i know of these sobrang murang generic medicines pero yun nga lang can we ever be 100% sure of its efficacy?nakakapanduda kase ang kamurahan minsan eh.

  • 15. grace garcia  |  June 1, 2010 at 2:25 pm

    magkano po ang cervarix vaccine? pls answer. tnx. where or to whom i can access it?

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