By Ernie Reyes
MANILA — Malacañang should convene a task force, to include diplomats
and Taipans, that will solve the shortage of Tocilizumab and other
anti-pneumonia drugs made scarce by the surge in the number of
hospitalized COVID-19 patients.
Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said it is time “to assemble
a national team” that will address the dearth of medicines that can
prevent deaths from COVID-19 complications.
“Tap those who can help, from diplomats to businessmen with excellent
global connections. They may have the personal contacts that
bureaucrats do not have,” he said.
Recto believes that while the global supply of Tocilizumab is tight, the
problem can be solved by our best minds.
As to funding, Recto said “there are billions in reserve in the
P151.64 billion Unprogrammed Fund, whose release can be triggered by
the ongoing government borrowings.”
He also pushed for an increase in the proposed P29.97 billion DOH
budget for medicines and vaccines next year so that the likes of
Tocilizumab and Remdesivir can be included in the shopping list.
And once these medicines are bought, they should be subjected to
proper storage and distributed efficiently in order to prevent their
The scarcity of critical drugs should not be aggravated by the
government’s poor procurement of drugs and the mishandling of the
He said some P9.5 billion worth of government medicines was wasted due
to expiration, unuse, and poor warehousing from 2016 to 2020.
“Money we have been losing to medicine spoilage can buy many
Tocilizumab,” he said.
“This ‘red flag’ has been a regular feature of the annual audit
reports on the agency by the Commission on Audit (COA),” Recto said.
The national government’s budget for the procurement of medicines and
vaccines averaged P15.39 billion annually from 2016 to 2020.
For next year, DOH is asking P29.97 billion to restock government pharmacies.
“Of course, it is unreasonable to expect that every pill and every
liquid medicine will be consumed to the last drop. But the problem,
according to COA, is that many drugs were never even sent to
hospitals,” Recto said. (ai/mtvn)