3 nabbed for illegal sale of COVID-19 drugs in Pasay

Robie de Guzman   •   October 5, 2021   •   273

MANILA, Philippines – Three individuals accused of engaging in unauthorized selling of medicines used to treat novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) were arrested in Pasay City, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) said Tuesday.

NBI Officer-In-Charge (OIC) director Eric Distor identified the suspects as Karen Amero, Ronaldo Ceriola, and Erickson Soriano.

Distor said the NBI launched the operation after it received a request for investigation and possible entrapment operation from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on the alleged illegal sale of COVID-19 drugs such as Remdesivir, Tocilizumab, Baricitinib among others.

The medicines are allegedly being sold thru online platforms such as Facebook, Shopee, and Lazada.

According to FDA Advisory No. 2021-0759, Remdesivir is not approved by FDA for treatment of COVID-19 and has not been granted yet with Certificate of Product Registration (CPR). This means that the said medicine cannot be marketed commercially.

In addition, the use of Remdesivir for a limited amount and for a particular patient may only be allowed in hospitals or physicians who are granted with a Compassionate Special Permit (CSP).

The NBI said a test-buy conducted by FDA personnel on September 14, 2021 confirmed the unauthorized selling of Remdesivir by the suspects.

“After proper coordination with the concerned authorities, NBI-AGD operatives conducted the buy-bust operation on September 28, 2021 at the premises of Crestly Building located at Perla St., Pasay City resulting in the arrest of the subjects,” the agency said.

The NBI said that during the conduct of inspection, several medicines were found in the area with Ceriola and Soriano, who introduced themselves as delivery riders of LMCSL Trading.

Amero, who introduced herself as office manager of LMCSL Trading, resisted the arrest claiming that they have necessary license from FDA relative to the product they sell. She even proceeded to her unit located at the ground floor of Crestly Building to show her alleged license.

However, verification by the FDA revealed that it is the LMCSL Trading located at Caroyroyan, Pili, Camarines Sur has the existing License to Operate and not the one located at Crestly Building, Pasay City where the buy-bust operation took place.

Recovered from the suspects are various types of medicines including Ivirem-Remdesivir.

The suspects are facing charges for violation of Section 11(a), (j), and (k) of RA 3720 as amended by RA 9711 otherwise known as the Food and Drug Administration Act of 2009 and violation of Section 45(a) and (p) of RA 10918 otherwise known as the Philippine Pharmacy Act.

They are currently under the custody of NBI Detention Facility in Manila.

Mandatory use of face shields only when alert level goes up — DILG

Maris Federez   •   December 1, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The use of face shields will only become mandatory when cases of the coronavirus diseases (COVID-19) Omicron variant is already recorded in the country and the alert level system goes up from Alert Level 2 to Alert Level 3, said Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo Año.

In his report to President Rodrigo Duterte during the weekly Talk to the Nation aired Tuesday night, Año clarified that the government does not totally disregard the use of face shield which was, in fact, integrated into the country’s alert level system in COVID-19 response.

He said while face shield use is voluntary in areas under Alert Levels 1 to 3, it has remained under the discretion of the local government units under Alert Level 4, and mandatory in areas under Alert Level 5, as stated in the current Alert Level system.

“Hindi naman po natin talaga totally na-discard ‘yung face shield. In-integrate lang po natin doon sa Alert Level System na sa Alert Level 1, 2, 3 ay voluntary po; Alert Level 4, may discretion ang LGU to impose; Alert Level 5, talagang mandatory,” Año said.

The DILG chief further clarified the use of face shields in layman’s terms and likened it to an umbrella.

“Para pong ano siya eh, sa layman’s term, ‘yung face shield po parang payong. ‘Pag malakas ang ulan nagpapayong po tayo; pero ‘pag wala nang ulan, pwedeng itabi lang muna ‘yung payong. Pero ‘pag uulan o kaya nakita natin na maulap, magdadala po ng paying,” he said.

Año stressed that the use of face shields is still well within the government’s policy.

“But, of course, sir, it will change kung may makapasok na Omicron,” he said.

The DILG chief underscored the government’s readiness once the Omicron variant enters the country.

“Now, we have instituted border controls. But our border in the southeast porous, iyon ang dapat bantayan po. Kasi kung mayroong mga pumasok na mga Filipino Muslims from Sabah, from Malaysia or Indonesia at hindi po dumaan sa port or seaport, airport, eh ‘yun po ‘yung talagang kailangang mabantayan,” Año warned.

As the department’s course of action, Año said he has coordinated with the military and has given directives to the police and the coast guard to implement strict and close monitoring in the country’s borders.

“Through the PNP (Philippine National Police), Armed Forces [of the Philippines], [and the Philippine] Coast Guard, maglalabas po kami nang mas mahigpit na mga direktiba para siguradong mabantayan ‘yung mga porous borders natin,” he said. —/mbmf

Mandatory face shield use vs Omicron variant, hindi pa kailangan sa ngayon – WHO

Robie de Guzman   •   November 30, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Naniniwala ang World Health Organization (WHO) na hindi pa kailangan sa ngayon ang muling pagpapatupad ng mandatory face shield use sa harap ng banta ng bagong COVID-19 variant na Omicron.

Ayon kay WHO Country Representative Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe, mas mahalaga sa ngayon ang pagsunod sa health protocols gaya ng tamang pagsusuot ng face mask, physical distancing, at ang pagpapanatili ng kalinisan upang makaiwas sa COVID-19.

“WHO has right along said that this is a virus that is not airborne. It is closed contact transmission and that is why we emphasized that what is important is the physical distancing and face masking and hygiene,” ani Abeyasinghe.

“If we can ensure those minimum requirements, those minimum public health measure are complied with, if we can ensure that people don’t congregate in close settings, the requirement of face shield probably at this point of time is not mandatory,” dagdag pa niya.

Una nang inatasan ni Pangulong Rodrigo Duterte ang mga eksperto at ang Inter-Agency Task Force na magsumite ng rekomendasyon hinggil sa posibleng pagbabalik ng mandatory face shield use dahil sa banta ng bagong variant.

Ang Omicron variant ay unang natuklasan sa South Africa noon lamang nakaraang linggo at ngayo’y napaulat na rin sa iba’t ibang bansa.

Sa ulat ng ilang eksperto, pinangangambahang mas agresibo at mas nakakahawa ang variant na ito dahil sa nakita ritong mutations na mas marami pa kumpara sa Delta variant.

Ngunit giit ng WHO, sa ngayon ay wala pang malinaw na detalye para sabihing mas mabagsik nga ang Omicron variant at may epekto ito sa transmission, mga gamot na ginagamit sa severe infection at sa bakuna laban sa COVID-19.

2.5 million vaccinated in day 1 of PH vaccination drive – DOH exec

Robie de Guzman   •   November 30, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – More than 2.5 million individuals were inoculated against COVID-19 on the first day of the government’s three-day nationwide vaccination drive, a Department of Health (DOH) official said Tuesday.

In a public briefing, DOH Undersecretary Myrna Cabotaje said a total of 2,554,023 doses of COVID-19 vaccines were administered on Monday.

This is 2.5 times the daily average last week, she added.

Of the total doses, the biggest chunk was administered in Calabarzon, followed by Central Luzon, Western Visayas, and Bicol regions.

Cabotaje, who also chairs the National Vaccination Operations Center, noted that the only “major challenge” they encountered in the first day of the vaccination drive were reports that some walk-ins at vaccination sites were not given the shots.

“Meron pong direktiba ang ating Presidente to vaccinate everyone… We allow walks-ins. Dapat po, walang uuwi na nakapila na hindi nabakunahan,” she said.

The government on Monday kicked off its three-day vaccination campaign, dubbed as “Bayanihan, Bakunahan” program, which aims to inoculate around 9 million people.

The campaign will end on Wednesday, December 1.

The National Task Force (NTF) against COVID-19 earlier said the vaccination drive will only be the first leg of the program, which is focused on scaling up the inoculation rate of local government units for the first vaccine dose by covering up to 70% of their target populations.

The second leg of the vaccination event will be held from December 15 to 17, which will focus on ramping up the number of fully vaccinated individuals to achieve the government’s target of fully vaccinating at least 54 million Filipinos by year-end.

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