The Philippines government has today announced mandatory 50% price cuts for five essential drugs, rejecting their makers’ offers of lower reductions.

The compulsory price cuts have been imposed on two cancer treatments – doxorubicin and cytarabine – plus the antihypertensive amlodipine, the antibiotic azithromycin and the cholesterol-lowerer atorvastatin.

Giving her State of the Nation Address yesterday, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo told the public that pharmaceutical manufacturers have agreed voluntarily to lower the prices of 16 out of a list of 21 essential medicines and that, “pursuant to law, we are placing other drugs under a maximum retail price,” though the signing of Executive Order 821.

The price cuts on all 21 essential medicines will take effect on August 15, and drugstores which are unable to implement them immediately will be given until September 15 to do so. Failure to comply after that date will incur penalties. Hospitals will also be required to implement the price cuts.

Prices will be monitored by government agencies includes the Departments of Health and of Trade and the Bureau of Food and Drugs, assisted by local government offices and the private sector, officials have said. They also note that senior citizens will continue to receive their 20% discounts on drug prices, on top of the new 50% reductions on the 21 essential drugs.

The 21 essential drugs whose prices will be reduced on August 15, either by manufacturers’ voluntary compliance or Executive Order, are: the antihypertensives amlopidine, telmisartan and irbesartan, the antithrombotic clopidogrel; cholesterol-lowerer atorvastatin; diabetes treatment gliclazide; antibiotics piperacillin + tazobactam, ciprofloxacin, azithromycin, metronidazole and co-amoxiclav; and cancer treatments bleomycin, carboplatin, cisplatin, cyclophosphamide, cytarabine, doxorubicin, etoposide, mercaptopurine, methotrexate sodium and mesna.