Marcos eyes pharma zones to streamline regulatory processes, cut medicine prices

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Marcos eyes pharma zones
Image by Franz Bachinger from Pixabay
  • President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. is eyeing the creation of pharmaceutical economic zones to streamline regulatory processes and ultimately lower drug prices
  • The President said the government needs to model the pharma zones after ecozones similar to the ones monitored by the Philippine Economic Zone Authority, offering tax and financial incentives to attract both local and foreign investors
  • FDA director general Samuel Zacate highlighted the project’s potential to boost local drug production

President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. is eyeing the creation of pharmaceutical economic zones or “pharma zones” to streamline regulatory processes and ultimately lower drug prices.

During a sectoral meeting in Malacañang on Tuesday, Feb 13, Marcos instructed health officials to look into the feasibility of pharma zones which he said would facilitate the development and production of common generic drugs, enhancing local supply and reducing prices comparable to the “true generic level similar to India.”

Producing medicines locally will lower the prices, but needs accreditation and authority for swift production and distribution, the President said in the meeting.

To attract both foreign and local investments in the Philippine pharmaceutical sector, the proposed pharma zones, akin to economic zones monitored by the Philippine Economic Zone Authority, will provide investors with tax incentives to reduce manufacturing costs.

READ: PEZA approves first pharma ecozone

“(We) provide the locals and the foreign investors with an equal playing field. We give everyone a chance to do that. To do whatever they want. But now, it’s not really regulated,” the President said.

Pharma zones would consolidate companies engaged in all aspects of drug manufacturing, including research, development, clinical testing, trials, and regulation.

In a press briefing, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Director General Samuel Zacate highlighted the project’s potential to boost local drug production, emphasizing the FDA’s role in expediting testing and registration processes for essential medicines.

Marcos directed the FDA to make drug manufacturing more accessible and efficient through a one-stop-shop scheme, encouraging both local and foreign pharmaceutical firms to participate and contribute to making medicines more affordable.

Meanwhile, the FDA is set to shorten the period of review and approval processes of applications of generic drugs from 120 days down to only 45 days.

“I’m on the verge of signing the memorandum circular for the facilitation of FRP for generic drug – it means it will shorten the 120 days to 45 days,” Zacate said in a Palace briefing on Feb 13, after his sectoral meeting with the President aimed at streamlining the country’s drug regulatory processes.

The FDA uses the Facilitated Review Pathway as an alternate registration procedure, where they refer to the evaluations conducted by a reference drug regulatory agency overseas when making its own assessment.