The price of medicines has been at the center of the debate throughout February in Panama. In view of this, the Executive and Legislative Branches have begun to promote measures to respond to this demand. Thus, on February 21, the Executive installed the Technical Evaluation Committee, headed by the Vice President of the Republic, Jose Gabriel Carrizo. The Committee will carry out a diagnosis and then propose a solution to the President, Laurentino Cortizo. On the other hand, the Health Committee of the Assembly accepted to discuss the bill presented by the deputy Zulay Rodríguez (PRD – ruling party) to establish a medicine price regime and the bill of Mayin Correa (PCD – opposition) which seeks to create a General Superintendency of Medicines to guarantee the correct importation, manufacture and sale of medicines. They could be approved in the short term.
The Executive’s committee will analyze a series of possible measures. These include the establishment of a “National Center for the Purchase of Medicines and Supplies”, which includes the option of purchasing drugs through international organizations. The implementation of logistic and technological programs to guarantee the supply of drugs is also being considered, as well as the establishment of “Popular Pharmacies” to guarantee quality medicines at accessible prices.
The table is integrated by the Minister of Health, Luis Francisco Sucre; the Minister Counselor of Health, Eyra Ruiz; the Minister of Government; Janaina Tewanei; the Director of Pharmacy and Drugs of MINSA, Elvia Lau; the Director of the Social Security Fund, Enrique Lau; the Director of Acodeco; Marco Carrizo; and the General Director of Public Contracting, Raphael Fuentes. Also invited to participate were the Rector of the University of Panama, Eduardo Flores, and the Dean of the School of Medicine, Oris Lam de Calvo.
Regarding the legislative tasks, the president of the Assembly, Crispiano Adames (PRD – ruling party) indicated that they will work to put “an end to the existing monopolistic schemes, for a real opening to competition and in the simplification of purchasing times in the State”. Thus, the projects to regulate the prices of these products could begin to move forward in the short term. In this sense, in addition to those already mentioned, there is another one from the ruling party that seeks to allow the importation of drugs purchased from manufacturers endorsed by international agencies. It is possible that this text will be considered together with Zulay’s and Correa’s in the Health Committee in the short term.