Access to medicines is a public health concern in the Philippines. A survey by the World Health Organization and Health Action InternationaI in 2006 showed that medicine prices were between 3.4 and 184 times higher than the international reference index and that the availability of essential medicines was only 11 per cent in the public sector.
A lack of transparency and accountability in the pricing, selection, promotion, procurement and use of medicines was pinpointed as a critical factor in this unsatisfactory situation. MeTA, officially launched in December 2007, was seen as a way for the government to start engaging the private sector, industry and academia in the development of evidence-based pharmaceutical policies and reforms.
The 24-member MeTA Council Philippines oversees the development and implementation of the country work plan and reports progress to the MeTA International Secretariat.
The first year saw the establishment of a collaboration process and a common understanding that improving access to medicines would require each stakeholder to share information and exercise transparency and accountability in order that sound policies and reforms could be worked out. MeTA’s discussions were described as “a robust interaction” between government agencies, companies, academics and the international development partners.
It has served as a venue for academic discussions on issues around the Cheaper Medicines Act and other reforms.
It is also collaborating with WHO and the Department of Health in the First National Awards for Good Governance in Medicines.
Now it is addressing the more daunting challenge of helping overcome barriers to transparency and accountability. Obstacles include a lack of established tools for disclosure of information, legal and structural barriers and business systems and corporate strategies that do not allow voluntary disclosure of information. Transparency on medicines pricing and promotion, for example, remain shrouded behind the veil of trade practices.
To address this problem, the MeTA Council convened a National MeTA Forum, Breaking Barriers for Transparency. It drew about 140 participants from government, industry, private sector and the universities.
The Council is looking into starting regional MeTA hubs.
The Coalition for Health Advocacy and Transparency (CHAT) hold first forum in Manila
MeTA stakeholders from seven countries strengthen relationships and build a network for learning
Over 70 MeTA stakeholders participated in a workshop in Jordan