MANILA – Retailers found overpricing Tocilizumab, a drug used as a treatment for critical to severe coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) cases, face one up to 10 years in prison, the Department of Health (DOH) warned Saturday.
DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said in a Laging Handa briefing the suggested retail price (SRP) for Tocilizumab ranges from PHP13,000 to PHP25,000, depending on the amount of drug per vial.
“We have sanctions for those who are going to violate the SRP especially during this time of the pandemic, ranging from one to 10 years imprisonment and PHP5,000 to PHP1 million fine based on the discretion of the court,” she said in Filipino.
The DOH allowed the use of Tocilizumab, an anti-inflammatory drug, for patients showing respiratory deterioration and those requiring high doses of oxygen and with elevated markers of inflammation.
Vergeire confirmed that there is a shortage of the drug in the Philippines, driven by the surge in worldwide demand due to rising cases brought by the Delta variant.
“[T]his shortage will end until December of this year so humahanap tayo ngayon ng mga alternative na gamot na puwedeng nating mabigay (we are looking for alternative drugs that we can give to patients),” she said.
The official said health facilities are now using baricitinib as a substitute for Tocilizumab while the DOH requested assistance from the private sector to source out the medicine from other countries.
“Hopefully in the coming weeks matutulungan po tayo ng mga private sector for the supply (the private sector could help us with the supply),” she said.
Meanwhile, the use of Ivermectin is still off the table amid a lack of medical consensus and the absence of evidence to support its safety for Covid-19 patients.
“Sa ngayon wala pang sapat na ebidensya ang Ivermectin para ibigay for Covid-19 (We don’t have enough evidence to suggest Ivermectin’s use for Covid-19 patients),” Vergeire said. (PNA)