On October 22, the Senate Human Rights Committee held a public hearing to discuss the decrease in the availability of high-cost medicines in the country. Guest speakers questioned the prevailing “lack of transparency” for the prices of these drugs. Aside from urging legislators to promote investment, guests criticized former President Michel Temer’s 95/2016 Constitutional Amendment, which froze the health budget for 20 years. Senators are expected to move forward in the study of bills to improve healthcare access.
Matheus Falcão, a representative of the Brazilian Consumer Defense Institute (Idec, for its acronym in Portuguese), said the lack of transparency in prices makes it difficult to know the real cost of medicines. He questioned the abusive prices for the drug Sofosbuvir, used to treat hepatitis C. Researcher Jorge Zepeda Bermúdez added that Sofosbuvir was originally launched at a price of USD 84,000 for 12 weeks of treatment, although now it only costs only USD 87 for the same treatment time, evidence that, according to him, the issue “is not the high cost”, but “the high price”.
The 95th Constitutional Amendment, which sets spending caps, was heavily criticized at the public hearing. For Ronald Ferreira dos Santos, president of the National Federation of Pharmacists, the losses caused by this amendment were “very large” and have impacted on the health budget which is being cut. Senator Zenaide Maia (Partido Republicano da Ordem Social – opposition), who presided over the hearing, also lamented that the amendment did not take into account people who are “dying for lack of resources.”