Scarcity and profiteering of medicine utilized in the treatment of severe Covid19 infections continue to plague the Department of Health (DOH), as the agency endeavors to procure additional supplies.
DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire recently stated that they are in talks with different sources for the much-needed drugs tocilizumab and remdesivir, as Covid19 cases continue to surge and grip the country.
Though not specifically developed for use against Covid19, tocilizumab and remdesivir are medicines that have shown effectiveness in studies at treating the illness that has ravaged the globe for more than a year now.
While tocilizumab is originally used to treat arthritis, remdesivir is intended for the treatment of hepatitis and Ebola.
Biotech company Roche’s Genentech conducted clinical trials last year wherein it was determined that those infected with Covid19 were 44% less likely to worsen into a severe case when given the drug.
Remdesivir, on the other hand, was found to reduce the time of illness for those Covid19 patients with additional risk factors.
“For the shortage of tocilizumab, the DOH is already coordinating with different suppliers who can source tocilizumab from Iran. We have also sent a letter to the Swiss Embassy requesting to prioritize 30,000 vials of tocilizumab for the Philippines,” Vergeire explained.
Vergeire further added that the country’s supply of remdesivir is slated to run out by the end of this year.
Additionally, reports of individuals selling tocilizumab at prices that far exceed the maximum suggested retail price (SRP) of P25,000 per vial, have gone viral on social media with re-sale prices soaring to P180,000 per vial.
The Health Undersecretary stressed that the consequences for selling the medicine far above SRP range from up to 10 years of incarceration, and P5,000 to P1 million in fines.
As of September 14, the country has recorded a total of 2,266,066 Covid19 infections since the pandemic’s beginning, with 177,670 active.