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DOH eyes access of COVID-19 drugs through retailers

/ 01:08 PM January 26, 2022
DOH eyes access of COVID-19 drugs through retailers

FILE PHOTO: An experimental COVID-19 treatment pill called molnupiravir being developed by Merck & Co Inc and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics LP, is seen in this undated handout photo released by Merck & Co Inc and obtained by Reuters May 17, 2021. Merck & Co Inc/Handout via REUTERS

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Health (DOH) is eyeing a new policy that would allow the access of some COVID-19 drugs through retailers, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said on Wednesday.

However, Vergeire noted that specific provisions of the law regulate the sale of such drugs under emergency use authorization (EUA) and compassionate special permit (CSP).

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“This is really the direction, to provide more access. Actually, we have this new policy that we are drafting right now if we can be able to open the access to these drugs even through retailers,” Vergeire said in an interview with ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC).

“But of course there are certain provisions ngayon ang batas na medyo restricted ang FDA (Food and Drug Administration) to allow us, kasi mga EUA at CSP pa lang ang gamot na ito, so patuloy po ang pag-uusap natin sa concerned agencies,” she added.

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(But of course, there are certain provisions of the law that restrict the FDA from allowing us, because these drugs are still under EUA and CSP. We are continuing our discussions with concerned agencies.)

Vergeire said this when asked about the suggestion of Dr. Rontgene Solante, chief of the Adult Infectious Diseases and Tropical Medicine unit of San Lazaro Hospital, for the government to subsidize COVID-19 antiviral drugs like molnupiravir in hospitals.

“I was looking at the possibility if the government can subsidize, especially for those who are really in a low level of the population that are admitted in hospitals like in government hospitals. I hope the government can also subsidize this medication or even PhilHealth can make this antiviral drug part of their home package,” Solante said in a separate interview with ANC.

“There should be monitoring of the patient that should be given, but I think the bottom line is accessibility and this accessibility should also include a subsidy for the government that it should be paid for those who really can’t afford this drug,” he added.

Vergeire said this is also the direction of the government.

“That is the direction that’s why we have downloaded funds to our hospitals. And remember [in] our DOH hospitals, we have this no balance billing especially for indigents that when they go to the hospitals and they cannot afford, they can be subsidized by the government,” said Vergeire.

“So ever since these new drugs have come in, it has been part of the management of our hospitals. Like right now, the molnupiravir, our hospitals are procuring and they are providing to our indigent patients for free kung wala silang pera (if they don’t have money), and then of course with a certain amount kung meron namang kakayanan (if they can afford it),” the health official added.

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TAGS: coronavirus Philippines, COVID-19, Department of Health, DoH, Dr. Rontgene Solante, Maria Rosario Vergeire, molnupiravir
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