Philippines Focusing on Independent Medical Manufacturing in Response to COVID-19

Apr 2020

As worldwide supplies of Medical items needed to beat COVID-19 has become scant, the Philippine government is helping local companies and scientists set up an “independent” Manufacturing system that will produce such items.

The University of the Philippines-Manila National Institutes of Health (UP-NIH) has developed test kits for COVID-19 that are capable of fast detection of the virus in samples taken from patients, with results ready in two hours. Moreover, its baseline cost per test is only at PHP 1,320 (USD 26), while a foreign-made test is currently pegged at PHP 8,500 (USD 168), making these locally developed test kits more than six times cheaper than imported ones. Manila HealthTek Inc is the company licensed to manufacture the UP-NIH test kits, and 120,000 of these were already made available in the country starting April 4, 2020.

Meanwhile, local companies have started producing 10,000 Medical-grade personal protective equipment (PPE) overalls per day for local healthcare workers, covering items such as N95 mask and face shields, beginning April 13, 2020. The Department of Health (DOH)  and the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) approved the design prototypes, while the Confederation of Wearable Exporters of the Philippines (CONWEP), a group of Philippine-based firms exporting garments for top global brands, was tapped by the DOH to produce these PPE’s. CONWEP has also secured a supplier for the raw materials, such as face hoodies and elastic bands, that are certified to have met international standards for waterproofing and resistance to contaminants. This is to ensure that the PPEs produced will be of “Medical grade” and meet prescribed specifications for appropriate safety and protection.

For ventilators and respirators, while the Philippine government is looking for an overseas source of this products in China and Korea, various group of local innovators are also in the process of developing these items. Also, with the notable insufficient supply of disinfectant alcohol in early March 2020, some local liquor and bio-fuel companies have volunteered to make disinfectant alcohol, making alcohol supply to normalize again, according to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

And the most recent development on this front, are the ongoing studies in the country on the use of virgin coconut oil (VCO) as a COVID-19 cure. On April 25, 2020, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) received an ethics committee approval for the research and development (R&D) on the efficacy of VCO as a food supplement to help fight COVID-19. DOST has allotted PHP 5 million (USD 99,000) for this study, while it has also provided funding for other similar R&D, such as those pursued by a group at the Ateneo de Manila University.

(Sources: ABS-CBN News; Department of Health; Department of Science and Technology; GMA News Online)

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