After Sanofi refusal, DOH to demand full P3B Dengvaxia refund again

MANILA, Philippines – Health Secretary Francisco Duque III remains steadfast in his resolve to have French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi Pasteur fully refund the government the P3 billion it paid for the Dengvaxia vaccine.

On Wednesday, February 14, the Department of Health (DOH) chief said he is set to write a second letter to Sanofi Asia Pacific head Thomas Triomphe demanding the company to also refund the amount equivalent to the vaccine vials used in the now-suspended dengue vaccination program.

Duque said he would invoke Sanofi's violations of the Civil Code of the Philippines if it insists on its refusal to refund the full amount.

"So meron na naman akong panibagong sulat telling them I am invoking the provisions of the Civil Code of the Philippines. There is a provision there that says kung 'yung produktong sinabi ninyo, 'yung binigay ninyo ay maayos eh 'di naman pala ganoon na as you claimed, kung nalaman lang ng gobyerno 'yun, malamang 'di sila pumayag doon sa presyo na binigay ninyo doon sa produktong 'yun. Or puwedeng binawasan or puwede 'di na tuluyan na binili kung nagkaroon sila ng full disclosure patungkol sa kanilang bakuna," said Duque.

(So I have a new letter telling them I am invoking the provisions of the Civil Code of the Philippines. There is a provision there that says the government wouldn't have agreed to the price they set if they only admitted the supposed effects of the product were untrue. Or the government would buy fewer doses or would not buy the vaccine at all if there were a full disclosure on the vaccine.)

Dengvaxia was used when former health chief Janette Garin launched the school-based dengue immunization program in April 2016. (READ: TIMELINE: Dengue immunization program for public school students)

Less than two years later, Sanofi announced Dengvaxia may lead a person to develop severe dengue if he or she had not been infected by the virus before immunization.

Duque immediately suspended the program, but not before more than 837,000 kids got the risky vaccine.

He first demanded Sanofi return P1.4 billion to the government, equivalent to the amount of the Dengvaxia vaccine vials used during the immunization program. He argued that the "purported or reported or claimed protection [of Dengvaxia] wasn't felt and wasn't there." Sanofi agreed to refund this amount.

But when Duque later demanded a full refund, Sanofi refused.

Triomphe said returning the full amount to the Philippines would "create confusion into the mind of the population, of the parents who have kids who have been immunized… [it] would give a wrong impression of the efficacy of the product."

Dengvaxia has since been banned from being sold in the Philippines for a year, after the Food and Drug Administration sanctioned Sanofi and slapped it with a P100,000 fine for failing to comply with post-marketing authorization requirements for the vaccine.

The DOH plans to conduct heightened surveillance of the vaccinated kids' health in the next 5 years. Duque also promised to distribute dengue kits to the children's parents in the coming months. – Rappler.com 

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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