MANILA – A lawmaker on Monday cautioned the public against buying coronavirus disease (Covid-19) medicines from entities that do not present the necessary business registration and permit to sell regulated products.
Muntinlupa Rep. Ruffy Biazon noted the increasing number of sellers of non-approved drugs in online platforms like Instagram and Facebook and e-commerce sites including Lazada and Shopee.
“While I am pleased that our officials are pro-actively looking for viable solutions to help Covid-19 patients overcome the disease, I am alarmed over the proliferation of online sellers marketing and offering medicines not approved as a cure for COVID-19,” he said. “Online platforms are the usual marketplace for these types of businesses where they escape liability.”
Biazon called on the Department of Trade and Industry to tighten the monitoring of e-commerce sites selling restricted medicines.
He said the intense focus on Ivermectin as a potential anti-Covid medication has “inadvertently diverted” the attention on other drugs being repurposed as Covid-19 medicine, the traditional Chinese medicine Lianhua Qingwen.
He also expressed alarm over the confiscation of some PHP9 million worth of smuggled Chinese medicines, including Lianhua, in February.
“These smugglers are realizing that there is a viable market for the drug here in the Philippines. Had the Bureau of Customs not seized these contraband medicines, they would have probably ended up in the grey or black market,” he said.
He said Ivermectin for human use was recently allowed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to be produced only by one pharmaceutical company after it applied for registration, while Lianhua Qingwen is a prescription drug that should only be sold as such from drugstores and other authorized outlets.
In an earlier House health committee briefing, FDA Director General Eric Domingo said Linhua has been delisted by the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) as a dangerous substance, but a regular doctor’s prescription was still required for purchase.
According to the FDA, Lianhua is registered in the Philippines as a traditional Chinese medicine for respiratory illnesses and not as a Covid-19 medication.
The drug, however, is an approved Covid-19 treatment for mild and moderate cases in China.
While the FDA approved Lianhua Qingwen, the agency warned against the purchase of unregistered versions of the Lianhua Qingwen Jiaonang capsule, which had different labels aside from the prescribed English version. (PNA)