P1.5-B funds for vaccines unaccounted for?
Paolo Romero (The Philippine Star) - January 24, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The multibillion-peso appropriation for the purchase of anti-dengue vaccine Dengvaxia from French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi Pasteur in 2015 is missing at least P1 billion and Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III wants to know where it went.

Sotto said according to some officials of the Department of Budget and Management, the DBM released a total of P4.5 billion in December 2015 for the purchase of vaccines.

But upon questioning from the senator during a hearing at the Senate last Monday, Sanofi Pasteur head for the Asia-Pacific region Thomas Triomphe said the company received only P3 billion for three million doses of Dengvaxia.

“Supposedly, the official figure is P3.5 billion paid for Dengvaxia to Sanofi but only P3 billion reached them. We have not yet accounted for the P1 to P1.5 billion,” Sotto told dzRH.

He said some officials told him that P4.5 billion was released by the DBM to the Department of Health (DOH) for the vaccines and part of the funding “went to pay for the expenses of those implementing” the vaccination program.

The Senate Blue Ribbon and health committees, chaired by Senators Richard Gordon and Joseph Victor Ejercito, have been conducting a joint inquiry into the Dengvaxia controversy, inviting former president Benigno Aquino III to one hearing.

Based on the timeline of the Blue Ribbon committee, then executive secretary Paquito Ochoa authorized the DBM to realign a total of P12 billion from the Miscellaneous Personnel Benefits Fund (MPBF) provision for various health projects in 2015.

Of the P12 billion, P3.5 billion was realigned for the DOH’s dengue vaccination program using Dengvaxia that started in April 2016 or a month before the presidential elections.

On Dec. 1, 2015, Aquino met with Sanofi Pasteur officials on the sidelines of the climate change conference in Paris, France.

Nine days later, then health secretary Janette Garin submitted a proposal to the DBM for the procurement of three million doses of dengue vaccine.

On Dec. 22, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the marketing of Dengvaxia. The following day, then budget secretary Florencio Abad recommended to Aquino the release of P3.5 billion as sought by Garin.

On Dec. 29, the DBM issued a Special Allotment Release Order for the funds.

In January 2016, Garin made representations to the DOH-run Philippine Children’s Medical Center to purchase Dengvaxia without the approval of the Formulary Executive Council (FEC). That same month, PCMC made the purchase order to Zuellig Pharma, the sole distributor of Dengvaxia in the country.

Ejercito has cited the apparent shortcuts in the release of the funding, registration and listing of Dengvaxia by various agencies under the DOH, including the FDA and the FEC, which list the drugs that government agencies can purchase.

Yesterday, Ejercito called for the release to the public of the details of the confidential testing of Dengvaxia conducted by the government-run Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM).

During the last hearing, it was learned that the vaccines were purchased even when the RITM was still conducting tests on Dengvaxia. Stage 3 of the test was finished only in September last year.

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