Tocilizumab supply to remain low until December: DOH


Posted at Sep 02 2021 02:59 PM

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MANILA – The supply of Tocilizumab, an anti-inflammatory off-label medication used to treat COVID-19 patients, will remain low until the end of the year, a Department of Health official said Thursday.

Dr. Melissa Guerrero, who heads the DOH’s pharmaceutical division, said global supply of the drug is slow amid the surge in cases due to the Delta variant.

“For example tocilizumab, so the manufacturer has already notified that there will really be some severe stockouts until December 2021. That is because of the Delta wave that is being experienced across countries and therefore the increase in global demand for these products,” she said.

The National Kidney and Transplant Institute on Wednesday suspended the dispensing of drugs used to combat COVID-19 due to low supply.

The hospital has procured remdesivir and tocilizumab but is unsure when the supply will arrive.

Guerrero said they are also checking the supply of remdesivir in hospitals.

“For Remdesivir, I think the demand and the supply is more stable. We are monitoring the stock levels in our hospitals, especially the COVID referral hospitals and there are stocks available.”

“But at the supply side, there’s critical level already so we are making sure and doing our best to communicate with the industry in order to facilitate the restocking in order to prepare for the worst case scenario,” she explained.

Guerrero reminded patients and their families not to take these drugs without a doctor’s prescription. She also told them not to buy these from the black market.

“They should be in a hospital, the medicine should be prescribed by a doctor, should be administered by the doctor and they cannot just access the drugs in the black market.”

Guerrero said they are also working hard to lower the prices of drugs needed by COVID-19 patients. 

“We’re balancing the setting of the SRP (suggested retail price) with the available supply globally, so right now we have set the SRP for Remdesivir anywhere from P1,500 to P8,200. But we’re reviewing now the prices were working with the Department of Trade & Industry.”

“In fact there will be a meeting at the National Price Coordinating Council because we have been receiving a lot of complaints from patients that there’s overpricing, really,” she said. 

---ANC, 2 September 2021