Stronger BFAD action vs fake flu vaccines

PHILIPPINES NEWS SERVICE — THE Bureau of Food and Drugs must go beyond issuing a warning to drugstores and the public about the sale of fake flu vaccines, Sen. Loren Legarda said yesterday.

She said that the BFAD must coordinate with law enforcement agencies to conduct entrapment operations and prosecute those behind the sale of fake Vaxigrip vaccines because they are endangering lives.

”BFAD must also determine what other medicines, if any, had been counterfeited and to cause their immediate pullout from the market. Drugstores found to be selling fake medicines must be closed and its owners prosecuted too at the fullest extent of the law,” Legarda said.

Meanwhile, the head of the National Epidemiology Center said his office has been receiving reports that some groups continue to peddle fake vaccines at very low prices even after the recent arrest of a woman for selling bogus Vaxigrip vaccines.

”May natatanggap kaming mga report na may mga gumagawa nito at pumupunta sa mga opisina. May dala-dalang sulat na aprubado ang mga bakunang dala nila. Nagbibigay pa ng magandang presyo. Syempre, gusto ng mga employer na di magkasakit ang mga tao nila para walang mag-absent sa trabaho, e magpapabakuna na sila,” National Epidemiology Center head Dr. Eric Tayag told dwIZ radio.

Also piquing Legarda’s concern is the limited supply of vaccines against the influenza A(H1N1) virus by rich countries, recently lamenting the reported attempts to “hoard” the swine flu vaccine by affluent countries.

She noted with alarm a wire report that “governments are scrambling to buy up hundreds of millions of doses of swine flu vaccine but health experts warn the poor may lose out as wealthy countries corner strictly limited supplies.”

“Certainly, affluent countries have the money to buy A(H1N1) vaccines faster than they can be produced by drug firms,” said Legarda, chairman of the Senate Committee on Health and Demography.

“The World Health Organization has unofficially estimated that the world’s labs may only be able to produce around 900 million doses for the A(H1N1) strain per year, for a planet that is home to 6.8 billion people,” said an AFP (Agence France Presse) report.

Legarda cited the order made by Germany for 50 million doses of the vaccine for its 25 million people. France has sought 94 million doses and an option for 36 million more while the United Staes has allotted $1 billion to buy the anti swine flu vaccine.

“Developing countries like the Philippines cannot possibly compete with rich nations in the purchase of A(H1N1) vaccines, more so since the price of the vaccine can be expected to go up because of the big demand and the limited supply,” she said.

Legarda has urged the World Health Organization, “to use moral suasion on the world’s pharmaceutical companies, as well as on affluent nations, not to create a situation in which poor countries hit hard by the A(H1N1) virus would have very limited access to the vaccine.”

WHO reportedly intends to farm out the vaccine to the countries that most need them, which Legarda described as “the right thing to do if the pandemic is to be contained.”

Even before the AFP report, Legarda had urged the government to set aside a budget for the purchase of the vaccine, as well as to lobby the WHO for prioritization in the allocation of the vaccine.