DOH execs may face graft charges over remdesivir purchases – solon

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 9) -- Department of Health officials may face criminal charges if they continue to buy more supplies of remdesivir for COVID-19 patients, said Anakalusugan Party-list Rep. Mike Defensor.

“We consider all new purchases of remdesivir as reckless and foolish spending in light of the WHO recommendation, and considering that government is scrounging for money to buy more COVID-19 vaccines and to pay for the P2,000 cash aid for every Filipino contemplated under the Bayanihan 3 bill,” said Defensor in a statement.

“All further purchases of remdesivir -– after the WHO came out with its adverse recommendation -– may be deemed as transactions highly detrimental to the government under the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act,” he added.

The DOH still pushed through last year with the clinical trial of the remdesivir despite the World Health Organization’s recommendation against the anti-viral drug to treat severe COVID-19 cases. Health Secretary Rosario Vergeire cited then that remdesivir was one of the drugs included in the WHO’s Solidarity Trial, adding that the WHO recommended that countries can continue with the trial to gather more evidence if the drug can help patients.

The national government has procured more supplies of remdesivir and another experimental drug, tocilizumab, last March.

Citing the law, Defensor said DOH officials may be held liable for a “grossly disadvantageous” transaction.

Defensor also urged the Department of Budget and Management to “repurpose” the money to be spent on the purchase of more redemsivir to acquire more COVID-19 vaccines.

“The problem with redemsivir is its outrageous price, and yet, based on the findings of the WHO, the drug offers no significant relief to patients,” he said.

The DOH earlier warned about overpricing of remdesivir, noting that a 100-milligram vial must only cost ₱1,500 to ₱8,200. The use of the drug also requires a compassionate use permit from the Food and Drug Administration.

Defensor and fellow congressman House Deputy Speaker Rodante Marcoleta were recently criticized for distributing the anti-parasitic drug ivermectin, although the FDA has not yet authorized the sale of the drug for COVID-19 treatment. Health experts, including those from the WHO, said there is not enough evidence that ivermectin can be used to cure COVID-19 infection.

READ: Doctors or solons liable for ivermectin giveaway lapses? DOH to cover all bases in probe