Philippines to look into bribery claim vs Sinovac

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 09 2020 01:25 PM | Updated as of Dec 09 2020 01:33 PM

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MANILA — The Department of Health on Wednesday said the country’s vaccine panels will look into reports that Chinese vaccine manufacturer Sinovac bribed Chinese drug regulators before.

A Washington Post report said court records show that Sinovac, which is also applying to run COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials in the Philippines, acknowledged the bribery. 

The CEO of the company reportedly told the court that he could not refuse the regulatory official who demanded for money.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said the agency is aware of the media report.

“This will also form part of the work of the vaccine expert panel. They will assess the veracity first and foremost of such a report. Kung meron mang katotohanan ito (If there is some truth to this),” he said during a virtual briefing.

Duque said there is also a possibility that the source of the media report was questionable. 

“The prudent thing to do is to investigate and to validate. If true, it’s up to the vaccine expert panel to include this in the report and also FDA,” he said.

The health chief explained that such issues are the reason why there is an ethics review board as well. He said the board should ensure that the country does not enter questionable transactions in case the corruption claim against Sinovac is true.

According to the Washington Post report, Sinovac was about to run clinical trials of a SARS vaccine and a swine flu vaccine in 2003 and 2009, respectively, when the bribery charges were made. 

The company’s CEO admitted to giving more than $83,000 to a regulatory official from 2002 to 2011. In return, Sinovac’s vaccine certifications were reportedly expedited.

While no safety concerns have yet been raised against Sinovac, experts interviewed by the Washington Post said such corruption charges may cast a “shadow of doubt” on the company’s vaccine claims.

Sinovac is one of the dozen or so companies that have already reached Phase 3 clinical trials. It’s application for clinical trials in the Philippines has already been approved by the vaccine expert panel. It is still awaiting clearance by the ethics review board before it can be officially evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.