Press Release
September 7, 2021

Money lost to expired medicines can fund Tocilizumab purchase

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 in medicines which 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 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 spoilage.

The scarcity of critical drugs should not be aggravated by the government's poor procurement of drugs and the mishandling of the supply chain.

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 Tocilizumabs," 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.

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