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Gov’t ‘helpless’ over shortage of tocilizumab



The Philippines is having trouble acquiring supplies of tocilizumab, a drug which was initially used to treat arthritis but now is widely used to treat severe Covid-19, an official said Thursday.

In a taped meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte aired Thursday, vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. admitted that the government’s hands are tied about the issue since it is a global demand problem.

“We cannot get additional supplies because it’s a global problem. We cannot do anything,” Galvez said.

He added that the government had already coordinated with Roche, the manufacturer of the drug,  but it said they are no longer accommodating additional orders.

“We spoke to the Swiss ambassador two months ago. Roche, which manufactures these drugs, already has allocated supplies,” he said.

Galvez, who also heads the National Task Force against Covid-19 said the stock of these drugs in the country has almost depleted.

“What we still have is the monoclonal medicine which can be used as an alternative for tocilizumab,” he said.

Earlier this month, the Department of Health (DoH) announced it is already looking for alternative drugs to treat severe Covid-19 cases, as supplies of tocilizumab are expected to remain scarce until the end of the year.

Health Undersecretary Leopoldo Vega said the DoH is looking at baricitinib as an alternative to tocilizumab.

Baricitinib is also like tocilizumab, an anti-inflammatory drug, which was initially used to treat arthritis.

The United States—Food and Drug Administration approved the use of Baricinitib in November 2020, in combination with remdesivir, for the treatment of suspected or laboratory-confirmed Covid-19 cases.

Baricinitib, remdesivir, tocilizumab and favipiravir are the drugs that have been used to treat severe and critical Covid-19 patients.