Health expert calls on gov't to subsidize COVID-19 antiviral drugs in hospitals

Published January 26, 2022, 9:42 PM

by Analou de Vera

Medicines (File Photo)

An infectious disease expert urged the government to subsidize antiviral medicines that are being used for the treatment of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) for it to be accessible to the public.

Dr. Rontgene Solante of the San Lazaro Hospital in Manila recommended to the government to subsidize these medicines such as molnupiravir; or include it in the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation’s (PhilHealth) package.

“I was looking at the possibility if the government can subsidize, especially for those who are really in a low level of the population that are being admitted in hospitals like in government hospitals. I hope the government can also subsidize this medication or even PhilHealth can make this antiviral drug part of their home package,” said Solante in a television interview on Wednesday, Jan. 26.

“Anyway, there should be monitoring of the patient that should be given, but I think the bottom line is accessibility— and this accessibility should also include a subsidy from the government that it should be free for those who really can’t afford this drug,” he added.

DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said that this is the “direction” of the government.

“That is the direction actually. That’s why we have downloaded funds to our hospitals. And remember our DOH hospitals, we have this no balance billing especially for indigents that when they go to the hospitals and they cannot afford, they can be subsidized by the government. So ever since these new drugs have come in, it has been part of the management of our hospitals,” she said.

“This is really the direction, to provide more access. Actually, we have this new policy that we are drafting right now if we can be able to open the access to these drugs even through retailers,” she added.

Vergeire, however, noted that there is a certain law that restricts the sale of medicines that are still under an emergency use authorization (EUA) or compassionate special permit (CSP).

“But of course there are certain provisions ngayon ang batas na medyo restricted ang FDA (Food and Drug Administration) to allow us. Kasi mga EUA at CSP pa lang ang gamot na ito. So patuloy po ang pag-uusap natin doon sa (in the law that the FDA is somewhat restricted to allow us because these drugs are still under EUA and CSP. So we will continue to coordinate with the) concerned agencies,” she furthered.