Ivermectin peddler Defensor warns DOH may face raps over Remdesivir purchases

Rep. Mike Defensor (Anakalusugan party-list) and Deputy Speaker Rodante Marcoleta (Sagip party-list)lead the distribution of anti-parasite drug ivermectin at the Matandang Balara’s barangay hall in Quezon City on April 29, 2021.
The STAR/Boy Santos

MANILA, Philippines — Rep. Mike Defensor (Anakalusugan Party-List), among the chief proponents of animal drug Ivermectin for coronavirus treatment, warned ranking execs of the health department Sunday that they could face charges "if they insist on procuring further" supplies of antiviral medication remdesivir.

To recall, the Department of Health disclosed earlier that its Disease Prevention and Control Bureau had allocated another P1 billion to procure additional stocks of remdesivir with existing supplies already running low.

The World Health Organization issued in November of last year a "conditional recommendation" against the use of remdesivir in hospitalized patients, saying "there is currently no evidence that remdesivir improves survival." 

"We consider all new purchases of remdesivir as reckless and foolish spending in light of the WHO recommendation, and considering that government is scrounging for money to buy more COVID-19 vaccines and to pay for the P2,000 cash aid for every Filipino contemplated under the Bayanihan 3 bill," Defensor said in a statement.

“All further purchases of remdesivir—after the WHO came out with its adverse recommendation—may be deemed as transactions highly detrimental to the government under the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act."

To recall, Defensor is among those behind a "pantry" that distributed the antiparasitic drug ivermectin, prescriptions of which did not include the required doctors’ names, license numbers, and professional tax receipt numbers when they were given out. 

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Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said that the "token prescriptions" should be investigated by the Food and Drug Administration. “Remdesivir is currently being used as an additional medication for COVID-19 patients,” the DOH said in a press statement posted on its website.

Atienza: DOH wasting ‘a ton of public money’ on remdesivir

Much like Defensor's argument against the latter, evidence supporting the merit of the animal drug he distributed as a coronavirus treatment remains thin. Medical authorities across the globe have advised against the use of Ivermectin to treat COVID-19, a respiratory disease.

Regardless of supposed gains, the FDA has said that using animal drugs like Ivermectin in humans can cause serious harm as these are “often highly concentrated and can be highly toxic to humans.”

In a separate statement, Deputy Speaker Lito Atienza, who has also pushed for the distribution of Ivermectin, flayed what he claimed was the DOH’s “wasteful double standard of promoting a very expensive investigational drug such as remdesivir, while stonewalling other potential low-priced treatments, including human-grade ivermectin that costs only P35 to P40 per capsule.”

“The WHO recommends against the use of remdesivir because it does not have any positive effect on COVID-19 patient outcomes. And yet, the DOH is still irresponsibly using the drug in addition to standard care for patients,” Atienza said.

“The DOH should stop importing and using remdesivir. Otherwise, the public will start suspecting that some (department) officials are making money on the purchases."

— Franco Luna with reports from Xave Gregorio 

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