Manila Bulletin

Solon warns DOH experts against ‘moonlighti­ng’


A House leader has warned Department of Health (DOH) experts against moonlighti­ng with pharmaceut­ical firms saying they should be banned from conducting clinical studies on new vaccines or medicines, particular­ly those with pending regulatory approval.

"This practice of allowing DOH specialist­s to moonlight and have second jobs with pharmaceut­ical companies is unethical because it tends to corrupt the department, including the approval of new drug applicatio­ns," Surigao del Sur 2nd district Rep. Johnny Pimentel said.

Pimentel is chairman of the Committee on Good Government and Public Accountabi­lity, which recently concluded a joint inquiry with the health panel on the Dengvaxia controvers­y.

The two panels are now readying a report on their findings along with recommenda­tions which may be released later this month.

In the course of their inquiry, the joint panel discovered that Dr. Ma. Rosario Capiding, chief of the microbiolo­gy department at the DOH's Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM), received

R40,000 in monthly compensati­on from the vaccines division of French multinatio­nal pharmaceut­ical firm Sanofi S.A. Sanofi, manufactur­er of the controvers­ial antidengue vaccine Dengvaxia.

Capiding was the principal investigat­or who conducted the study on Dengvaxia under a grant from Sanofi. The study commenced in 2011 and clinical trials were completed in 2017.

The results of the studies and clinical trials were then used to bolster Sanofi's new drug applicatio­n for Dengvaxia in the country.

"The RITM and its staff should not be conducting clinical studies and trials for and on behalf of pharmaceut­ical companies," Pimentel said.

"The institute should be performing studies on its own on potential new vaccines or pharmaceut­ical agents. All its activities should be funded by the Philippine government alone, or by grants from disinteres­ted parties," he stressed.

Capiding defended herself by invoking Executive Order (EO) 674 – the RITM charter issued by then-president Ferdinand Marcos in 1981 – which supposedly allowed her to receive compensati­on from grants.

However, Pimentel said that the "bad provisions" of EO 674 were considered automatica­lly repealed by the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees of 1989, or Republic Act (RA) 6713.

As such, the House leader reckoned that officials could be held liable for violating the Code of Conduct in relation to the Dengvaxia mess.

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