Solon warns DOH experts against ‘moonlighting’

Published March 11, 2018, 10:00 PM

by Mario Casayuran and Vanne Elaine Terrazola

By Ellson A. Quismorio

A House leader has warned Department of Health (DOH) experts against moonlighting with pharmaceutical firms saying they should be banned from conducting clinical studies on new vaccines or medicines, particularly those with pending regulatory approval.

“This practice of allowing DOH specialists to moonlight and have second jobs with pharmaceutical companies is unethical because it tends to corrupt the department, including the approval of new drug applications,” Surigao del Sur 2nd district Rep. Johnny Pimentel said.

Pimentel is chairman of the Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability, which recently concluded a joint inquiry with the health panel on the Dengvaxia controversy.

The two panels are now readying a report on their findings along with recommendations which may be released later this month.

In the course of their inquiry, the joint panel discovered that Dr. Ma. Rosario Capiding, chief of the microbiology department at the DOH’s Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM), received P40,000 in monthly compensation from the vaccines division of French multinational pharmaceutical firm Sanofi S.A. Sanofi, manufacturer of the controversial anti-dengue vaccine Dengvaxia.

Capiding was the principal investigator who conducted the study on Dengvaxia under a grant from Sanofi. The study commenced in 2011 and clinical trials were completed in 2017.

The results of the studies and clinical trials were then used to bolster Sanofi’s new drug application for Dengvaxia in the country.

“The RITM and its staff should not be conducting clinical studies and trials for and on behalf of pharmaceutical companies,” Pimentel said.

“The institute should be performing studies on its own on potential new vaccines or pharmaceutical agents. All its activities should be funded by the Philippine government alone, or by grants from disinterested parties,” he stressed.

Capiding defended herself by invoking Executive Order (EO) 674 – the RITM charter issued by then-president Ferdinand Marcos in 1981 – which supposedly allowed her to receive compensation from grants.

However, Pimentel said that the “bad provisions” of EO 674 were considered automatically repealed by the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees of 1989, or Republic Act (RA) 6713.

As such, the House leader reckoned that officials could be held liable for violating the Code of Conduct in relation to the Dengvaxia mess.