Roma Drug vs The Regional Trial Court of Guagua, Pampanga
585 SCRA 140 – Political Law – Constitutional Law – Bill of Rights – Equal Protection – Access to Medicine
In 2000, Roma Drug, owned by Romeo Rodriguez, was raided by the NBI upon request of Smithkline – a pharmaceutical company (now Glaxo Smithkline). RD is apparently one of 6 pharmacies who were directly importing 5 medicine brands produced by Smithkline from abroad. RD is not purchasing those medicines via local Smithkline – the authorized distributor of Smithkline in the Philippines. Smithkline Phil. avers that because the medicines were not purchased from a Philippine registered counterpart of Smithkline then the products imported by RD are considered as counterfeit or “unregistered imported drug product” – as defined by R.A. No. 8203 or the “Special Law on Counterfeit Drugs.” Notwithstanding RD’s motion for reconsideration, the provincial prosecutor recommended that Rodriguez be tried. Rodriguez assails the constitutionality of RA 8203 averring, among other things, that it has violated his right to equal protection as it banned him access from such medicines.
ISSUE: Whether or not R.A. No. 8203 violates equal protection.
HELD: Yes. The Supreme Court denounced R.A. No. 8203 for it violated equal protection. It does not allow private 3rd parties to import such medicines abroad even in cases of life and death nor does it allow the importation by 3rd parties in cases wherein the stocks of such medicine would run out. It discriminates at the expense of Filipinos who cannot travel abroad to purchase such medicines yet need them badly. Nevertheless, the flawed intention of Congress had been abrogated by the passage of RA 9502 “Universally Accessible Cheaper and Quality Medicines Act of 2008” and its IRR. This law does not expressly repeal SLCD but it emphasized that any medicine introduced into the Philippines by its patent holder be accessible to anyone. It provides that the right to import drugs and medicines shall be available to any government agency OR ANY PRIVATE 3rd PARTY. The SC noted that this law provided and recognized the constitutionally-guaranteed right of the public to health.