Cagayan de Oro allots P5-M to buy antiviral drug as hospitals run low on supply

CAGAYAN DE ORO. (MindaNews / 05 June) — Faced with mounting COVID-19 cases, the city government here plans to buy a thousand vials of the  antiviral drug Remdesivir as hospitals are running low on supply.

During the meeting of the City Council’s Committee on health and health insurance last Thursday, Sheila Ratunil of the City Health Insurance Office said city budget office would be allocating P5 million to buy Remdesivi which the Department of Health describes as “an investigational drug for COVID-19 that requires compassionate use permit from the Food and Drug Administration.”

Ratunil said the P5 million would be used to purchase 1,000 vials of Remdesivir  at 4,500 to 5,000 pesos a vial.

Ysalina Bridge, a landmark in Cagayan de Oro.  The installation of new, colorful lights on February 14, 2020 was an instant hit among residents but a month later, the COVID-19 lockdowns began.  . MindaNews  file photo by FROILAN GALLARDO

City Health Officer Lorraine Nery said local hospitals including the state-run Northern Mindanao Medical Center started running out of Remdesivir since two weeks ago when the COVID-19 cases dramatically rose to more than a hundred cases a day.

“If the cases continue to rise, there may be a shortage soon,” Nery said during a press briefing last Friday.

The National Inter-Agency Task Force placed Cagayan de Oro under the stricter Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ) from June 1 to 15 after a spike in COVID-19 cases.

As of June 5, the total number of COVID-19 cases in Cagayan de Oro City since March last year has reached 7,754. Of this number,  1,446 are active cases, 5,942 have recovered while 346 have died.

DOH advisory

Jose (real name withheld),  a COVID-19 patient said his family was able to buy Remdesivir in neighboring Malaybalay City in Bukidnon when supplies in Cagayan de Oro ran out last week.

He said they paid 90,000 pesos for six vials of Remdesivir at 15,000 pesos each.

The DOH  central office in an advisory on Wednesday warned against overpricing of Remdesivir.

It said the suggested retail price of a 100mg vial of Remdesivir should range only from 1,500 pesos to a maximum of 8,200 pesos.

Remdesivir was the first drug given temporary approval by the US Food and Drug Administration for treating COVID-19 in October 2020.

The US National Health Institute said the drug, originally developed  over a decade ago to treat Hepatitis C and other respiratory diseases were proven beneficial to COVID-19 patients.

It encountered rough sailing in the Philippine Congress after some of its members accused the Department of Health of “favoring the drug over others.”

Representatives Michael Defensor (Anakalusugan) and Lito Atienza (Buhay) said the prices for the drugs were “excessive.”

Defensor and Atieneza are known advocates of the use of Ivermectin, a medication for parasite infestations, both claiming during congressional hearings it si effective against COVID-19.

Health Undersectary Maria Rosario Vergeire had earlie said the DOH approves the use of Remdesivir provided they are covered with compassionate use permits. (Froilan Gallardo / MindaNews)