MANILA – In an effort to stem the tide of the coronavirus pandemic in the country, President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered on Monday the “immediate” purchase of rapid test kits for COVID-19.
Purchase of which accordingly needs prior approval from the country’s Food and Drug Administration but the Chief Executive said he is willing to take the risk and approve acquisition of the test kits.
“I will take the risk. I will order the Health Department and everybody. In the meantime, the private sector is doing it. Maybe we can take over someday or do it all together with your help. I am clearing the way by ordering the purchase,” Duterte said in a late-night briefing on Monday.
The President explained the said test kits have approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) meaning, they passed the standards set forth by international health governing bodies.
“Tutal walang FDA local, but what we are trying to buy outside is approved by the FDA United States of America,” Duterte said.
But Cabinet Secretary and Inter-Agency Task Force on COVID-19 spokesperson Karlo Nograles made it clear the DOH cannot directly purchase the test kits without the approval by the Health Technology Assessment (HTA) Council.
Nograles explained that under Section 34 of the Universal Healthcare Law, “any investments on any health technology, or development of any benefit package by the DOH and PhilHealth shall be based on the positive recommendations of the HTA.”
“The Universal Healthcare Law specifically provides that the DOH and PhilHealth, cannot procure unless there is approval by the HTA council. OCD (Office of Civil Defense) can do the purchasing, just not DOH or PhilHealth,” he said.
For his part, COVID-19 Chief Implementer Carlito Galvez Jr. claimed the required test kits will cost the country around ₱3.3 billion.
“The PCR we’ll be buying will be worth ₱3.3 billion to include the capacitation of more or less 28 accredited civilian and government hospitals,” Galvez said in the same briefing.
The FDA has approved five rapid test kits brands for COVID-19 including the local kits produced by a team of scientists from the University of the Philippines National Institute of Health, the Philippine Genome Center, and The Manila HealthTek Inc. (ia/SovereignPH.com)