The Manila Times : Crackdown on drug hoarders urged

20 September 2021

By Bernadette E. Tamayo | The Manila Times

FORMER senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. sought a crackdown on hoarders and profiteers of Tocilizumab to end the fleecing of patients in dire need of the life-saving drug against Covid-19.

He deplored that the price of Tocilizumab, an anti-inflammatory drug repurposed for use in severe cases of Covid-19, skyrocketed in the past few weeks.

In a recent buy-bust conducted by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), agents found that profiteers sell a vial of Tocilizumab for P97,000, more than four times its maximum retail price of P20,581.

"Dapat lang na hulihin ang mga taong ito na nagagawa pang magsamantala sa kapwa sa panahong ito na may pandemya (It is just right to arrest these people who had the guts to take advantage of their fellow men amid the pandemic)," Marcos said.

"Mga taong walang kunsiyensiya at baluktot ang pag-iisip lang ang nakakagawa ng ganito (Only people without conscience and evil mind can do this [despicable] thing)," he added.

Marcos urged the government to form a special task force composed of the Philippine National Police, NBI, Department of Trade Industry and the Department of Health to run after these profiteers.

He noted that concerned agencies also reported having difficulty replenishing the country's Tocilizumab inventory.

Marcos said the problem stemmed from the shortage of Tocilizumab supply.

"If we can resolve this immediately we'll be able to prevent patients and their families from being in desperate situations and be forced to buy this very expensive drug," he said.

Meanwhile, the Health department said it is looking for alternative drugs. They added that some medical facilities have started using Baricitinib as a replacement.

Under Republic Act (RA) 7581 and RA 9502, those who will be found guilty of profiteering face fines ranging from P5,000 to P1 million and jail time ranging of up to 10 years, according to the discretion of the court.