Public warned vs measles vaccines sold online

Posted at 01/17/2014 3:47 AM | Updated as of 01/17/2014 10:27 AM

MANILA, Philippines - The public was warned yesterday against vaccines being sold on the Internet.

Director General Kenneth Hartigan-Go of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said buying prescription and over-the-counter drugs from a buy and sell website like sulit.com.ph is risky as the agency has not issued any license to operate an online pharmacy.

“The advertisers may be bogus,” he said. “Though the link or site may look professional and legitimate, with matching pictures to boot, it could actually be an illegal operation or scam.”

Go said FDA Circular No. 02 s. 1999 bans advertising food or dietary supplements with curative or therapeutic claims.

“Advertisers of vaccines are suspect when they are in a buy and sell website such as sulit.com.ph,” he said.

Go said the FDA has received only one application for a license to operate an online pharmacy.

The application is “currently under serious evaluation and consideration,” he added.

Department of Health Administrative Order No. 65 s. 1989 also bans the advertisement of vaccines and other prescription medicine in any form of mass media.

Advisory 2014-004 showed that on Dec. 16 last year, the FDA had monitored five vaccines being advertised or sold online on sulit.com.ph, an online marketplace that caters primarily to Filipino consumers.

The vaccines are for meningo, cervical cancer and pneumonia.

Before this, sulit.com.ph took down the advertisements for at least 166 vaccines and other biological products for humans and animals on the prodding of FDA.

Measles reported in Bulacan

Bulacan is now in outbreak mode against measles, although no official declaration has been made.

Jocelyn Gomez, Provincial Public Health Office head, said they are following protocols for an outbreak.

The protocol includes house-to-house defaulter monitoring and active surveillance where volunteers are tasked to seek out children with symptoms of measles.

Clinically diagnosed cases of measles in the province climbed to 90 in the first 15 days of January.

Health officials said the Regional Institute of Tropical Medicine (RITM) still has to confirm reports that two children have already died in Bulacan.

Gomez said blood samples have been submitted to RITM for testing.

“All cases that we have are still unconfirmed cases of measles, but they are reported because patients showed symptoms of measles,” she said.

Test results can take a month due to increased cases reported in different parts of the country, especially in Metro Manila.

Gomez advised parents to seek medical health services in nearby rural health units or public hospitals where anti-measles vaccines are given for free.

They are also giving vitamin A drops for free, she added.

Gomez said the city of Malolos and the towns of Hagonoy and Calumpit top their list of the number of measles cases.

“Our surveillance is ongoing and we are watching for possible clustering of cases,” she said.

Schools to fight measles

Education Secretary Armin Luistro has ordered public elementary and high schools to report identified cases of measles to concerned local health units, and to disseminate information about the disease and immunization procedures.

He instructed schools division superintendents and regional directors to coordinate with local government health units for the complete vaccination of students. – With Dino Balabo, Helen Flores