By Ellson A. Quismorio, Charina Clarisse E. Echaluce, and Ben R. Rosario
French pharmaceutical firm Sanofi-Pasteur has refused to reimburse the Philippine government of some P1.8 billion worth of used Dengvaxia vaccines, which was earlier requested by the Department of Health amid the controversy surrounding the drug.
“We delivered our response which I signed myself, to the Secretary of Health, I believe this morning, and with all due respect we decided to refuse to actually reimburse the used doses,” Sanofi Asia-Pacific head Thomas Triomphe told the House Committees on Good Government and Public Accountability and Health investigating the Dengvaxia mess yesterday.
“The reason why is because doing so would imply that the product is ineffective and does not provide the effect provided, which actually is not the case,” Triomphe said.
“As you know today, by using Dengvaxia in the Philippines, we will make sure that there are less dengue cases than not using Dengvaxia. We stand behind the efficacy and safety of the product. And that is why we are not reimbursing the already used doses,” he said.
The Sanofi official noted that returning the government’s payment for the particular portion of the P3.5-billion vaccination program “will create confusion into the mind of the population and will give the wrong impression on the efficacy of the product.”
“So we decline this request your honor,” Triomphe said.
Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel, chairman of the good government panel, said that the Health department could pursue legal remedies following Sanofi’s rejection of its request.
“I guess the DoH will have to find another cause of action of need be, maybe you’ll have to resort to a legal course of action if that would be the case,” the Mindanao solon said.
“It’s an option your honor,” the man who made the request to Sanofi, Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III and who was present in the hearing, said.
“But we will defer to our task force of the DoH which I put together in December,” he said. “Given this information, we will look at our other available options.”
Senior administration congressmen have called on the DoH to immediately initiate the process of blacklisting Sanofi-Pasteur from conducting future pharmaceutical sales with the government.
This developed as opposition Rep. Lito Atienza (Buhay party-list) demanded the presence of former Budget Secretary Florencio Abad and representatives of former President Benigno S. Aquino III in the next hearing of the Dengvaxia controversy at the House.
Ako Bicol party-list Rep. Rodel Batocabe aired the appeal for the immediate blacklisting of Sanofi as he lashed out at the French pharmaceutical firm for rejecting demands for the refund of payment made by government in the purchase of the vaccines.