MANILA - An official of the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) who led a clinical trial of the controversial dengue vaccine Dengvaxia admitted Monday that she has a relative that works for drug maker Sanofi Pasteur.
The RITM in 2014 said their clinical trial for Dengvaxia showed "promising results," including a 56-percent reduction of dengue in 3,500 test subjects. Two years later, the Philippine government started administering the vaccine to thousands of public school children.
The P3.5-billion project, however, was suspended last year after Sanofi disclosed that the vaccine could make the dengue worse if given to those who have not been infected with the mosquito-borne disease.
Dr. Rosario Capeding, principal investigator at the RITM, confirmed in a Senate hearing that Hazel Dy Tioco, director of clinical research operations at Sanofi-Asia Pacific, is her niece.
Capeding rejected claims that her relationship with Dy Tioco marred the Dengvaxia trial study with conflict of interest.
"In terms of conflict of interest regarding blood relations in clinical trial, the requirement for a clinical trial staff is with regards to the education, training," she said.
"The conduct of clinical trial is regulated. There are independent clinical research organizations which monitor the conduct," she added.
Capeding said her niece was not involved with the procurement and licensing of Dengvaxia.
The 3,500 subject of the clinical trial, which was funded by Sanofi, remains "alive and well", except for one who died in a vehicular accident, she said.