Pangilinan: Who profits in COVID-19 test kit trade during pandemic?

IMMEDIATELY after the Department of Health (DoH) announced the approval of the commercial release of the Filipino-developed test kits for COVID-19, prices of imported test kits significantly dropped, Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan said Wednesday.

“Long-time DoH insiders have told us that some distributors of imported COVID-19 test kits have lowered their prices by 26 percent after the announced commercial release of the much cheaper test kits developed by the University of the Philippines-National Institutes of Health (UP-NIH),” Pangilinan said.

“Ang laki ng ibinaba at napakalaki ng tubo sa presyo dati. Sino ang kumikita at nananamantala sa panahon ng pandemya?” he asked.

Filipino scientists and doctors have started developing the test kits as early as January this year when reports about the coronavirus surfaced.

In May, the UP-NIH test kits were recalled by its manufacturer due to the alleged contamination of the reagents, which may have been the reason why 30 percent of the test kits yielded “indeterminate” results.

Citing DoH sources, Pangilinan said the contamination was not due to lab facilities but contaminated imported raw materials. “We were told all stock was immediately pulled out and destroyed when the contamination was detected,” he said.

On July 18, Pangilinan, together with opposition senators Franklin Drilon and Risa Hontiveros, slammed Health Secretary Francisco Duque III for his supposed inaction that led to the locally manufactured COVID-19 testing kits getting stuck in warehouses instead of being put to good use.

The following day, July 19, the DOH announced that the GenAmplify version 2 test kits of UP-NIH are ready for commercial use.

“If the UP-NIH test kits had been approved earlier, then mass testing could have been achieved earlier at lower cost to the government and the public,” said Pangilinan, noting the continuing rise in the number of COVID-19 cases in the Philippines.

On Tuesday, July 22, the country breached 70,000, second to Indonesia with the highest number of COVID-19 cases in Southeast Asia.