Health authorities warn public against counterfeit COVID-19 drugs

Job Manahan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 19 2022 08:58 PM

MANILA — Health authorities on Wednesday warned the public about the spread of fake COVID-19 oral treatments such as molnupiravir, advising them not to buy medicines from unauthorized sources, noting the possible health hazards of these drugs.

In a statement, the Department of Health (DOH) said it received reports about "possible" counterfeit versions of the antiviral drug molnupiravir. 

"Remember, there is no guarantee that molnupiravir sold from unauthorized sources are genuine and purchasing of such products may pose serious health risks for the consumer," the DOH statement read. 

"It is your physician who will help secure your medicines and ensure they are authentic by referring you to authorized sellers," the agency added. 

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had previously released a statement condemning the "growing sales" for the investigational COVID-19 treatment through "unlicensed" sellers. 

The drug regulator last month approved Molnarz's molnupiravir for emergency use in treating COVID-19 cases.

The DOH said molnupiravir could only be used "under the supervision of a licensed physician" and in certain conditions.

"Molnupiravir is safe and effective when used in the correct patients and administered for no more than 5 days," the statement read. 

"Using the drug improperly can cause harm, especially if it is used in the wrong target population, for longer than 5 days, or in patients who do not have confirmed COVID-19 infection," it added. 

The FDA reminded the public that the EUA prohibits the sale of molnupiravir commercially, which is why it is possible that some establishments selling it online are illicit sellers.

"Buying medicines in unlicensed establishments or over the internet can pose serious health risks. Furthermore, a medicine bought in an unlicensed establishment or online cannot be guaranteed as genuine and may contain no active ingredient, too much or too little active ingredient which may result in the condition/ailments not being treated correctly," the agency said. 

 PAXLOVID

Infectious disease expert Dr. Edsel Salvana, meanwhile, advised the public against the unauthorized use of Pfizer's oral antiviral treatment Paxlovid.

Paxlovid is nearly 90 percent effective in preventing hospitalizations and death rates, and data suggested it retains its effectiveness against the omicron variant, Pfizer has said.

The COVID-19 pill when used with viagra "and similar erectile dysfunction (ED) drugs," Salvana said, could cause prolonged erection, among other things. 

"Mixing Paxlovid with Viagra and similar erectile dysfunction (ED) drugs can result in unpredictably high levels of the ED drug resulting in low blood pressure, and unsafe levels of... prolonged erection," he said in a Facebook post.

"The ritonavir component of this drug has multiple potentially unsafe drug interactions, including interactions with some anticholesterol drugs (statins), steroids, rifampicin (used for tuberculosis)" he added. 

The country is experiencing a fresh wave of new COVID-19 cases most likely driven by the omicron variant. 

On Wednesday, Philippines confirmed nearly 23,000 fresh infections, pushing active cases to over 270,000.

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