MANILA - The Philippines is having a hard time securing more supplies of tocilizumab due to the high global demand for the drug, vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. said on Thursday.
Swiss pharmaceutical giant Roche, the manufacturer of the drug being used in severe cases of COVID-19, could no longer accommodate additional orders, Galvez told President Rodrigo Duterte in a taped address.
"Kinausap na po natin yung ambassador of Switzerland 2 months ago. Yung Roche, yung gumagawa nito... mayroon na silang mga allocated supplies," he said.
(We spokes to the Swiss ambassador 2 months ago. Roche, which makes these drugs, already have allocated supplies.)
"Sa atin, 5,000 lang ang allocation before. Dinoble po nila ng 10,000 every month. Talagang wala po tayong makukuha kasi global supply ang ano [issue] natin," he said.
(They used to allocate 5,000 to the Philippines before. They doubled it to 10,000 every month. We really can;t get more because it's a global supply issue.)
"Wala tayong magagawa, sir."
(We can't do anything, sir.)
The Department of Health (DOH) earlier said it expects tocilizumab to remain scarce until the end of 2021.
“Kausap na namin ang manufacturers nito, ang Roche Philippines, and they gave us that declaration na hanggang end of the year mukhang mahihirapan na maka-access pa ng gamot na ito,” DOH Spokesperson Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said in an earlier virtual briefing.
(We are talking to one of its manufacturers, Roche Philippines, and they said that its supply would remain low until the end of the year. We think that a lot of people would have difficulty accessing this drug.)
Tocilizumab is the generic name of an anti-inflammatory drug currently used by doctors worldwide to treat severe and critical COVID-19 patients.
In the Philippines, two brands are available, Actemra of Roche and Temziva, distributed by Biocare Life Sciences.