Philippines focusing on producing test kits for communicable diseases

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 05 2021 01:46 PM

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MANILA – The Philippines is focused on producing diagnostic kits for communicable diseases but is also eyeing the production of testing kits for other diseases, an official of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) said. 

“We are just prioritizing, initially we focused on communicable diseases, common diseases we see such as tuberculosis, hepatitis B, but you also, now because of the pandemic, (we’re) also looking at COVID-19 and we did develop some diagnostic kits for that,” Dr. Jaime Montoya of the Philippines’ Council for Health Research and Development said.

“But we have, also being developed, other diagnostic tests for non-communicable diseases such as for cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and others.”

“So we’re just prioritizing, but they’re also equally important because they’re also leading causes of morbidity and mortality in the country,” he added.

Montoya’s comments come after experts said it is time for Asian countries to be self-reliant in meeting local health needs by boosting their local production of diagnostic products.

Montoya said they are funding research on the production of test kits because they hope to make these kits more affordable for Filipinos.

“The reason why we’re actually developing diagnostic tests and capacitating our local manufacturers…is for us to make available affordable, cheap, and accurate diagnostic tests, reliable tests to Filipinos,” he said.

He also said that they hope to improve the value chain for diagnostic kits across the country. 

“Well you know diagnostic tests, compared to drugs and other modalities, are not that advanced, and that is why our value chain is not that well-developed as far as diagnostics is concerned.”

“But as more and more companies go into diagnostics and we’re seeing more and more companies into diagnostics, as more and more researchers go into development of newer diagnostic tests, we see that the environment will change and that we’ll be more capable in terms of improving the value chain,” he said.

Experts said Thursday that the COVID-19 pandemic showed the limitations of the diagnostics market.

“With a very few global supply, and many countries who do not have local capacity for production of local diagnostics. when there is scarcity in production and supply, those countries are in the end of the queue and access quality diagnostics," said Dr. Stijn Deborggraeve, diagnostics advisor at Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) Access Campaign.

University of Economics Ho Chi Minh City Researcher Berlin Tran, however, said that there are ways to navigate through the challenges.

"A little assistance, such as seed funding or consultation in clinical trial and production, would go a long way," Tran said.

--ANC, 5 November 2021