Defensor: DOH execs may face raps for ‘disadvantageous’ remdesivir purchases
MANILA, Philippines — Anakalusugan Partylist Rep. Mike Defensor on Sunday warned that executive officials of the Department of Health (DOH), whether they profited or not, may face criminal charges if they insist on procuring supplies of the drug remdesivir.
According to Defensor, in light of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommendation against the drug’s use for COVID-19 patients, all new purchases of remdesivir may be deemed as transactions “highly detrimental to the government” under the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
“Under the law, DOH officials may be held liable for a corrupt act if they perform a transaction that is ‘grossly disadvantageous’ to the government,” Defensor said.
“The potential liability is there, regardless whether the officials involved profited or not from the procurement,” he added.
The offense is punishable with up to 10 years in prison and perpetual disqualification from public office, according to Defensor.
“We would urge the Department of Budget and Management to repurpose the money meant for remdesivir, preferably to acquire more COVID-19 vaccines,” Defensor said.
According to the WHO, the solidarity trials showed that remdesivir “had no important effect” in reducing the need for mechanical ventilation, shortening the time to clinical improvement, lessening the risk of mortality and on other COVID-19 patient outcomes.
“The problem with remdesivir is its outrageous price, and yet, based on the findings of the WHO, the drug offers no significant relief to patients,” Defensor said.
Meanwhile, Defensor also recently came under fire after he and Deputy Speaker Rodante Marcoleta distributed free doses of the antiparasitic drug ivermectin — another drug the WHO has recommended against.
The two lawmakers distributed ivermectin in Quezon City on April 29, even when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not yet allowed the manufacture and sale of the said drug as treatment for COVID-19.
Currently, only hospitals with a compassionate use permit (CSP) can distribute the said drug.
Only six hospitals have this permit as of May 5, and these remain undisclosed.
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