MANILA - The Philippine government will seek a refund and bring to court pharmaceutical giant Sanofi Pasteur over the dengue vaccine that spurred a health scare in the country, Health Secretary Francisco Duque said Thursday (Dec 7), ABS-CBN News reported.
The Department of Health last week suspended the vaccination program after the company disclosed that its Dengvaxia vaccine may cause "more cases of severe disease" if given to those who have not had the mosquito-borne illness before.
I'll probably talk to them. I'll tell them, 'We have 1.5, 1.4 billion (pesos) worth of remaining unused vaccines. Balik yan, bayaran niyo kami. (Return the money. Pay us back.)'" Duque told ANC's Headstart, adding that he will also ask for an indemnity fund from the firm if cases of previously vaccinated children manifesting severe symptoms are proven.
He has previous said the health department still had 789,000 unused doses worth about 789 million pesos (S$21 million)
"Eventually that's where it's gonna go because eventually it's the court of law that's gonna decide insofar as the liability of Sanofi is concerned," he said when asked if the government will sue the drug maker, ABS-CBN said.
Sanofi would be liable if it is found to have withheld material information "that would have changed the outcome of all of these problems and the decision-makers in the Department of Health in the previous administration", said Duque.
The Department of Health will be attending the separate legislative inquiries at the Senate and the House of Representatives next week to present all documents pertinent to the investigation, he added.
Sanofi said Thursday it was surprised by Duque’s remarks, adding it would continue to comply with Philippine authorities’ legal directives.
“Sanofi is a responsible company that has acted according to Philippine laws and regulations for the supply and sale of the vaccine according to the approved label in the country,” the company said in a statement emailed to Agence France-Presse.
In December 2015, the Philippines was the first country in Asia to approve the vaccine for people aged 9 to 45.
The government has bought 3 billion pesos (S$79.7 million) of Dengvaxia intended for one million public school children in areas reported to have the highest incidence of dengue in 2015: in Metro Manila, Central Luzon, and Calabarzon regions.
The vaccine was to be administered in three phases at 6-month intervals beginning April 2016.
Sanofi's statement last week was the first time the pharmaceutical company acknowledged that Dengvaxia should not be recommended to individuals if they have never been infected with the dengue virus. The manufacturer said it would ask health authorities to advise physicians and patients of the new information in countries where the drug has been approved.