‘DOH has disposed of nearly-expired medicines’ — Vergeire

Published October 7, 2020, 3:52 PM

by Analou de Vera

The Commission on Audit (COA) report that pertains to about P2.2 billion nearly expired medicines and supplies was “taken out of context,” as the distribution of the said commodities is currently being done, the Department of Health (DOH) said on Wednesday.

Health Assistant Secretary Maria Rosario S. Vergeire
Health Assistant Secretary Maria Rosario S. Vergeire (PCOO / MANILA BULLETIN)

“The DOH emphasized that the CY (calendar year) 2019 COA-Consolidated Annual Audit Report (CAAR) on which these articles were based was for CY 2019, which means this only covers the period of January to December 2019, adding that the current status of the DOH Central Office figures is now different,” the agency said in a statement.

In a press briefing, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said that all nearly expired medicines were already distributed.

“Sa kasalukuyan, nakapag-distribute na po tayo ng lahat (ng) near-expiring medicines amounting to more than P1 billion [Currently we have distributed all near-expiring medicines amounting to more than P1 billion],” she said.

“Lahat po iyan [All of that], we were able to distribute already from January to August of 2020,” she added.

The DOH noted that of the 63,250 procured dental kits, 98 percent or 62,410 kits have already been distributed.

“Only the fluoride toothpaste which is just one component of the dental kits are with expiry dates. Other components of the remaining 840 kits, specifically kiddie toothbrushes, and germicidal soap per kit are usable and were distributed and utilized,” the DOH said.

Meanwhile, on the COA report pertaining to P1.1 billion worth of “slow moving” or “idle” commodities—- P815 million worth of items were already distributed as of September of this year.

“There is still ongoing distribution for the remaining balance of P322 million whose expiry dates range from CY 2021 to CY 2023,” it said.

Vergeire said that they are expecting to distribute the remaining commodities this year. “Kasama po iyan sa aming schedules until the end of the year [That is in our schedules until the end of the year],” she said.

The Health official admitted that there are indeed challenges in distributing medicines and supplies.

“Hindi naman po natin kinakaila na meron talagang challenges sa aming naging distribution, sa logistics, sa warehousing, kaya nga po nag set ng mga reporma si Secretary [Francisco] Duque [III]. Nagbuo sya ng specific office which is in charge of logistics and management dito sa DOH [We do not deny that there are really challenges in our distribution, logistics, warehousing—- so Secretary Duque has set reforms. He set up a specific office which is in charge of logistics and management here at the DOH],” said Vergeire.

The DOH said that it “acknowledged the issues flagged by the commission and recognized its vital role in ensuring that government resources are properly allocated and utilized especially during this time of COVID-19.”

“We are one with the Commission on Audit and we are closely working with them in deploying and dispatching commodities in a timely manner. I thank the many hardworking men and women of DOH who have successfully found a way to address these issues. Despite the pandemic, the DOH has continued the distribution of medicines and supplies,” said Duque