Authorities are on the lookout for individuals, pharmacies and other commercial establishments storing and selling fake medicines, especially COVID-19 antigen test kits and counterfeit health products used to treat patients infected with the deadly virus.
The Department of Interior and Local Government tapped the police and local government units to go after and prosecute unscrupulous individuals and establishments responsible.
The DILG also urged LGUs to enact ordinances banning the sale of medicines in sari-sari stores nationwide.
The move followed reports that counterfeit health goods related to COVID-19 proliferated and were being sold openly in local markets and sari-sari stores nationwide.
Just recently, government agents seized smuggled fake COVID-19 antigen test kits and other counterfeit health products worth P150 million during a raid at a storage facility in Manila.
Operatives of the Manila International Container Port – Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service (MICP-CIIS) raided the facility situated at 555 Carlos Palanca Street in San Miguel based on the Mission Order and Letter of Authority issued by Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero.
The operation was conducted with the help of the National Bureau of Investigation – Special Action Unit, local police, and the Coast
The authorities discovered thousands of Clungene COVID-19 antigen test kits, counterfeit LianHua Chinese herbal medicines, and fake 3M N95 face masks.
DILG Secretary Eduardo Año ordered the Philippine National Police to immediately arrest violators who still persist in selling medicines, especially fake ones, despite the lack of authority to sell them.
“LGUs should protect the health and general welfare of their constituents. We, therefore, urge LGUs to ensure that sari-sari stores within their jurisdictions are not selling any medicine because under the law, they are not authorized,” Año said.
Under Section 30 of Republic Act 10918, also known as the Philippine Pharmacy Act, only Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-licensed retail drug outlets or pharmacies are allowed to sell drugs and medicine to the consuming public.
During the weekly “Talk to the People” of President Rodrigo Duterte on February 14, the FDA reported that from January 13 to February 11, they have received 185 reports on sari-sari stores that were illegally selling medicines, in which 78 were confirmed to be guilty.
Of this number, nine stores were retailing fake medicines including COVID medicines.
With this, the FDA requested the DILG to urge all LGUs to pass ordinances to ban sari-sari stores from selling medicines.
Año expressed support to the FDA and said the DILG will work hand-in-hand with them in issuing a Memorandum Circular to LGUs for them to discontinue the sale of medicines at the level of sari-sari stores and other outlets without FDA authorization.
DILG Undersecretary and Spokesperson Jonathan Malaya called on the public to buy medicines only in drug stores and pharmacies that have been authorized to sell medicines.
“Mere possession of counterfeit drugs is a punishable act under the law. We only want what’s best and safe for the public,” he said.
Republic Act 8203 or the Special Law on Counterfeit Drugs provides that those possessing fake medicines face imprisonment of not less than six months and one day.