In 2001, the Philippine government embarked on a mission to improve access to medicines with the Medium Term Philippine Development Program (MTPDP 2001-2005, 2005-2010) under then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo clearly articulating its objectives to "reduce the prices of the medicines commonly bought by the poor to half of their 2001 levels by 2010." The Pharma-50 unit, an ad-hoc unit, was then created to establish thousands of community drug outlets nationwide known as the Botika ng Barangay to fill the need for medicines in underserved and far-flung communities. Government also initiated the parallel drug importation program to source lower priced medicines from other countries like India and Pakistan. In 2008, Republic Act 9502 otherwise known as the Universally Accessible and Affordable Quality Medicines Act of 2008 was passed giving addtional powers to government to regulate drug prices and use TRIPS flexibilities for patented medicines addressing diseases of public health importance. From an ad-hoc unit, the Pharma-50, DOH NCPAM was then established on January 8, 2010 to operationalize, strategize and implement the national medicines policy and the provisions of RA 9502. Its primary goal is to attain and sustain universal access to medicines by 2015.
Other major programs of the NCPAM include: (a) the Generics Advocacy which aims to promote the use of generics among health professionals and the public; (b) the Philippine National Formulary which is an integral component of the National Medicines Policy (NMP) that aims to guide prescribers, dispensers and consumers on the rational use of medicines; (c) the Electronic Drug Price Monitoring System which enables the monitoring and analysis of medicines prices in the market; (d) the Medicines Access Programs for priority diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, cancers, HIV/AIDS and essential medicines for mothers and children.