Demand for vitamin C, multivitamins soar as coronavirus cases rise

Vivienne Gulla, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 24 2020 07:46 PM

Health workers from the Valenzuela City government check the temperatures of pedestrians at the checkpoint between Valenzuela City and Meycauayan, Bulacan on Monday, March 16, 2020. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - Demand for vitamin C more than doubled since the Philippines recorded its first case of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines Executive Director Teodoro Padilla said companies also saw an increase in demand for maintenance medicines for senior citizens, and some antibiotics and antivirals

Fresh supplies of in-demand medicines are expected to arrive within three months, Padilla assured, even as inventory showed some medicines are now limited due to the implementation of tough travel restrictions in the country.

“Due to increase in demand and the enhanced quarantine measures that are in effect in various countries, there are some medicines with current limited supply. However, supplies of most of these medicines with limited supply are expected to arrive anytime from March to May,” Padilla told ABS-CBN News.

Padilla said the organization's member-pharmacies are looking at ways to ensure "an uninterrupted supply of medicines" during the public health crisis.

The Philippines' number of COVID-19 cases surged to 552 on Tuesday, the Department of Health announced, amid growing clamor for a mass testing to determine how many Filipinos are really infected. 

DOH reported an additional 90 new cases, a new daily high, as Luzon remained on lockdown in a bid to prevent the spread of the virus. 

Limited stocks 

A pharmacy in Quezon City said it ran out of stock of vitamin C tablets and multivitamins with zinc, adding that paracetamol, anti-allergy and maintenance medicines sell out fast. But they get to replenish their stocks in three days.

“Dahil minsan lang lumabas dahil sa quarantine pass...so pag bumibili sila (customers), good for one month na, o kaya 60 days,” said Morena Quiobo of the pharmacy.

(Since they can only go out a few times due to quarantine pass...customers buy medicines good for one month or 60 days.) 

“Minsan ang ibinibigay namin good for 30 days na lang kasi pag naubos [stock namin], wala na kaming ibibigay sa iba,” she added.

(Sometimes we give only good for 30 days because if we run out of stock, other customers won't have anything.)

Customer Perry Alcudia went to three drug stores to purchase multivitamins with zinc for her wife, who was diagnosed with pneumonia, but didn’t find any.

“Matagal na daw wala (They said they run out of stock a long time ago,” he said.

Barangay chairman Lolita Singson, meanwhile, took two days and trips to several drug stores in Quezon City to purchase 2,000 tablets of vitamin C for distribution to her constituents in Barangay Teacher’s Village East.

“Nakabili kami paunti-unti. Kumikilos kami, wala nga lang makuha. Wala pa rin kasing dumarating sa kanila (pharmacy). Naubos na rin kasi yung supply nila,” Singson said.

(We were able to buy little by little. We're moving around but we can't get anything. Because nothing is yet being delivered to pharmacies. Their stock also ran out.)

If necessary, PHAP said their members are open to booking chartered flights to pick up medicines. It is also coordinating with the government to ensure the unimpeded movement of supplies in airports, seaports, and checkpoints. 

The inter-agency task force focused on the coronavirus response earlier reiterated local government should allow cargoes, including those carrying medicines to enter. PHAP added it would help if government can speed up the electronic process of drug regulatory reviews and approvals.

“We also call on the people to purchase just the right amount of medicines that they would be needing for a given period,” it noted.