The Philippines’ government has announced a second round of pharmaceutical price cuts, and is asking drug majors for “voluntary” reductions of up to 50%.

More than 21 products could be on the market at reduced prices by the end of March, according to Alexander Padilla, undersecretary at the Department of Health. An initial deadline of January 14 for drugmakers to submit their price reductions has now been extended to January 22, and while the government says it would prefer that these are voluntary, it is prepared to impose reductions, as it did last August for five essential medicines. At that time, the prices of 16 medicines were also lowered voluntarily by their makers.

The Pharmaceutical Health Care Association of the Philippines (PHAP), which represents multinational drugmakers in the country, has been asked to submit to the Department a list of price cuts for products made by its 51 member–companies, and that these should be the top-selling and most expensive products with little in the way of generic competition.

According to PHAP, last August’s round of price reductions led to 600 job losses in the industry, and it is urging the government to explore ways of increasing access to medicines for its 90 million population other than price intervention.

The prices of many drugs in the Philippines are considerably higher than in the rest of Southeast Asia, and the aim of the price reductions is to bring them more into line with those in neighbouring countries, the government says.

Meantime, earlier this month French drug major Sanofi-Aventis announced that it was cutting the prices of its products to treat diseases such as diabetes and cancer by as much as 50% in the Philippines and Indonesia, and that it plans to introduce similar price cuts in other Southeast Asian nations.