DOH warns of imprisonment, fine for tocilizumab price gougers
MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Health warned Saturday that sellers of tocilizumab who do not follow its suggested retail price would be jailed and fined, amid a global shortage in the drug used off-label to treat patients hospitalized due to COVID-19.
DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said in a briefing on state TV that those who defy their SRP for the arthritis drug of P13,000 to P25,000 per vial could get jailed for one to 10 years and be fined between P500,000 to P1 million.
Meanwhile, Philippine National Police chief PGen. Guillermo Eleazar has directed the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group and the Anti-Cybercrime Group to work with the Food and Drug Administration regarding the illegal selling of the drug online.
Eleazar said the PNP has received information that the drug is being sold online with a markup. A quick search by Philstar.com in leading online shopping platforms show that tocilizumab is being sold for up to P32,000.
“Isa itong pananamantala sa ating mga kababayang nangangailangan sa gitna ng pandemya at hindi natin papayagan ito,” he said.
(This is exploitation of our needy countrymen in the middle of the pandemic and we are not going to allow this.)
Vergeire said they are now working with the private sector to bring more stocks of tocilizumab in the country, but admitted that a shortage of the drug might persist until the end of the year.
The country is experiencing its worst surge of coronavirus infections since the pandemic began, with record-breaking daily case rates. — Xave Gregorio
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