Department of Health

Complaint filed vs DOH officials for ‘mismanagement’ of funds for cancer meds

Rappler.com
Complaint filed vs DOH officials for ‘mismanagement’ of funds for cancer meds

SPECIAL COURT. File photo of the Office of the Ombudsman's building.

Photo by Darren Langit/Rappler

The DOH says it acted in the 'best interest of the thousands of cancer patients' relying on the DOH's cancer program

MANILA, Philippines – At least five current officials of the Department of Health (DOH) are facing a complaint for criminal and administrative offenses in relation to the alleged mismanagement of funds for cancer medicines.

In a complaint filed with the Office of the Ombudsman dated December 23, 2022, DOH medical specialist Clarito Cairo Jr. alleged that there was an alleged mismanagement of the P786-million budget for the Cancer and Supportive-Palliative Medicines Access Program (CSPMAP) in 2022.

Cairo is a medical specialist at the DOH central office and program manager of the Philippine Cancer Prevention and Control Program (now National Integrated Cancer Control Program).

Aside from the mismanagement, Cairo also alleged that there was a reduction of access sites for cancer medicines from 31 to only 19. He added there was a removal from procurement of cheaper cancer medicines with generic equivalent, in favor of patent rights owned by a multinational pharmaceutical firm.

In a statement, the DOH said it had yet to receive a copy of the complaint. It added it acted in the “best interest of the thousands of cancer patients” relying on the DOH’s cancer program.

The respondents named in the complaint are:

  • Undersecretary Beverly Lorraine Ho (officer in charge)
  • DOH Director Anthony Cu
  • DOH Director Razel Nikka Hao
  • Disease Prevention and Control Bureau (DPCB) – Financial and Supply Chain Monitoring Division head Kim Patrick Tejano
  • Cancer Control Division (CCD) head Jan Aura Laurelle Llevado
  • Former DOH director Anna Melissa Guerrero

In his complaint, Cairo also asked the Ombudsman to probe the respondents for grave misconduct, malversation of public funds, and alleged violation of Section 3 (e) of Republic Act No. 3019 or the Anti-graft and Corrupt Practices Act. The petitioner also requested that the respondents be placed under preventive suspension, pending the probe.

Cairo said among the major government hospitals being affected by the reduction of medication access are the Philippine General Hospital, Rizal Medical Center, and the Amang Rodriguez Memorial Medical Center.

“Thus, many of their CSPMAP-enrolled patients had to discontinue or abandon their treatment due to [the] unavailability of the lifesaving medicines,” Cairo said in his complaint.

Imatinib, an oral chemotherapy maintenance medication used by patients with chronic myelogenous leukemia, is also affected by the problem. The drug was left out of the list, Cairo said.

“Due to the sub-allotment of CSPMAP funds to access sites, the CSPMAP portfolio or medicines was not followed, hence patients previously enrolled in CSPMAP were unable to continue their Imatinib medication.”

For 2021, the government allotted a P756-million budget for the CSPMAP, targeting 25,253 beneficiaries. In 2022, the program received P30 million increase, with 26,200 targets.

Meanwhile, Cairo said, he used to be the lone representative of the DOH to the technical advisory group for the development of clinical practice guidelines for priority cancers. He also used to be part of the yearly procurement of cancer medicines since 2017.

But he was stripped of any participation in the activities in 2021, he added.

The DOH said in a statement: “All the processes undertaken by the DOH, through the cancer program, were unanimously approved by the National Integrated Cancer Control Council – the highest and only designated policy-making, planning, and coordinating body consisting of key representatives and experts from different national government agencies, cancer specialists, and patient support groups,” the statement said.

The health department added that the money sub-allotted to the hospitals were based on the “documented requests” of the hospitals. The DOH added that the hospitals allegedly excluded from receiving funds “were actually provided cancer medicines and cancer assistance funds which can be used for diagnostics, treatment, and other needed support of cancer patients.” – Rappler.com

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