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Galvez admits difficulty in getting supply of tocilizumab

Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. admitted on Thursday that the Philippines could not replenish stocks of arthritis drug tocilizumab, which is used to treat COVID-19 patients, due to a global shortage of the medication.

Speaking at a Cabinet briefing with President Rodrigo Duterte aired on Thursday, Galvez said they brought up the supply problem with the Swiss ambassador and the drug’s manufacturer Roche, but to no avail.

“Wala po tayong makukuha kasi (We cannot get additional supplies because) it’s a global supply [problem]. Wala talaga tayong magawa (We cannot do anything),” Galvez said.

Last week, the Department of Health (DOH) said it was coordinating with different suppliers who can source tocilizumab from Iran.

“We have also sent a letter to the Swiss embassy requesting to prioritize 30,000 vials of tocilizumab for the Philippines,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said in a statement on September 10.

Earlier, the DOH said the global supply of tocilizumab is expected to remain limited until December this year.

In the meantime, the government is looking at baricitinib as an alternative to tocilizumab, the DOH said. —LBG, GMA News