DOH says PH hospitals can replenish supplies of experimental drugs for COVID-19 patients within the month

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 26 2021 09:08 PM

MANILA — After confirming that there is now limited supply of drugs repurposed for COVID-19 treatment, the Department of Health (DOH) on Friday said new supplies will be coming in within the month.

“We have already communicated with Roche, the distributor of tocilizumab, they mentioned in a letter formally that the stocks will be arriving March. This March. So, it's coming,” Health Undersecretary Leopoldo Vega said during a virtual briefing.

Tocilizumab is an anti-inflammatory drug that is among the off-label medication being used to treat COVID-19 patients. 

Vega said they also received word from the supplier of remdesivir, an anti-viral medication, that new stocks are also arriving this month.

While remdesivir was previously included in the World Health Organization’s clinical trial, it was removed from the study after it did not show any effect on the mortality of patients.

However, Vega said doctors are still using such medication under a compassionate use permit by the Food and Drug Administration because there are studies showing that it is linked to decreased hospital stay.

The DOH on Thursday said it had allocated P5 million for each hospital for the purchase of such medicines.

“With the necessary allocation given to the different hospitals, they can now actually procure or purchase these medicines for the patients,” Vega said.

Concern over the limited supply of medicines has been raised by some doctors as the country is seeing a continuing surge in COVID-19 cases. Most of the cases have been detected in the National Capital Region and nearby provinces. 

Vega said those receiving P5 million each are the 16 government-retained hospitals in the National Capital Region, 1 hospital in Region 4A, and 2 in Region 3.

While the country is already on its 3rd week of COVID-19 vaccine rollout, the country is still seeing a significant increase in cases. It reached another record-high on Friday with 9,838 additional cases, bringing the total number of cases to over 700,000.