MANILA, Nov 18 (Mabuhay) — Senator Raffy Tulfo on Thursday claimed that a company was asked to shell out from P5 million to P20 million to fast track the renewal of its certificate of product registration (CPR) in the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Senator Raffy Tulfo (Facebook page photo)

Tulfo raised this allegation during Senate plenary deliberations on the Department of Health’s 2023 budget.

He cited a complaint where a pharmaceutical firm waited for three to five years for the renewal of its CPR.

He said the “asking price” to fast track the process ranges from P5 million to P20 million per product.

FDA director general Samuel Zarate, who was appointed to the post last August, said Tulfo’s claims are dismaying.

“Kung ‘yan po ay totoo, nakakapanlumo po ‘yan kasi actually po we do not tolerate that in my agency,” Zarate said.

Tulfo mentioned a conversation with a former director general of the agency, who supposedly admitted that the FDA is “graft-ridden.”

“She admitted to me na graft-ridden ang inyong agency and she admitted to me… P5 million to P20 million ang hinihingi kada produkto. That’s why she said she’s gonna put a stop to it pero hindi niya napigil, hindi niya naputol ang practice na ‘yon. That’s why natanggal siya,” Tulfo said.

“Now, wag kang magmalinis at wag mong sabihin na malinis ang inyong ahensya. Just accept the fact na maraming problema d’yan sa FDA and you’ll do something para linisin yan,” he added.

Zarate, in response, admitted that he has been hearing stories about the alleged corruption within his agency but he has no proof to pursue an investigation.

“May mga naririnig po talaga ako but the problem is I don’t have leads,” he said.

“Hindi ko po talaga hahayaan ang ganyan. So, I want to coordinate with people that have a knowledge regarding sa corruption ng ahensya ko. Puro s’ya po naririnig ko but I don’t have proof,” he added.

Zarate acknowledged the slow renewal process in the FDA as he observed that there are a lot of backlogs in its offices.

The new FDA chief attributed this to the lack of digitization in the agency’s processes and the lack of proper compensation to the experts’ pool which reviews the products.

Zarate said he has already directed the streamlining of  processes in the agency, fix the information and communications technology, and fill up the vacant plantilla positions in the FDA to address these problems.

He also ordered a zero backlog policy in the FDA and said one of his directors has committed to accomplish this by June 2023.

Further, Zarate said they are seeking to amend Administrative Order No. 67 which provides rules and regulations for the registration of pharmaceutical products, as this is no longer “coping with innovation.”

“Rest assured, I’m doing my best in my capacity. The FDA are brilliant people. They’re highly technical. On those allegations, I cannot tolerate that, sir. I will guarantee you that I will eliminate if I can see anything that is outside my principle of public service,” Zarate said. (MNS)