Philippines plans to sue Sanofi over dengue vaccine

This file photo taken on April 4, 2016 shows a nurse showing vials of the anti-dengue vaccine Dengvaxia, developed by French medical giant Sanofi, during a vaccination program at an elementary school in suburban Manila. (AFP)
Updated 07 December 2017
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Philippines plans to sue Sanofi over dengue vaccine

MANILA: The Philippines intends to sue Sanofi after authorities suspended the pharmaceutical giant’s anti-dengue vaccine in response to the company warning the drug could lead to severe infections in some cases, the health secretary said Thursday.
Regulators froze the Philippines’ world-first public dengue immunization program last week and suspended all sales of the vaccine on Monday after Sanofi said Dengvaxia could worsen symptoms for vaccinated people who contracted the disease for the first time.
“Eventually it’s the court of law that is going to decide in so far as the liability of Sanofi is concerned,” Health Secretary Francisco Duque said on ABS-CBN television
The previous administration of president Benigno Aquino launched the vaccination program last year, making the Philippines the first nation to use Dengvaxia on a mass scale.
About 830,000 schoolchildren had received at least one dose of the vaccine, Duque said on Thursday. Previously the government said more than 733,000 people had been vaccinated.
Sanofi’s announcement last week caused great concern in the Philippines — where the mosquito-born disease is extremely prevalent.
The French company on Monday sought to allay concerns, saying Dengvaxia would not cause anyone who was immunized to die and would not cause a dengue infection.
However, Duque said Thursday Sanofi’s recent statements on Dengvaxia were “confusing.”
Duque said he may ask Sanofi to refund 1.4 billion pesos ($27.6 million) worth of unused Dengvaxia supplies.
He added the government might also demand Sanofi set up an “indemnity fund” to cover the hospitalization cost for children vaccinated under the public program who would fall ill.
Asked if the government would sue Sanofi if allegations of a lack of transparency were proved, Duque said: “I’m sure it’s going to get there.”
He added: “If it’s found out that (Sanofi) withheld material information that would have changed the outcome of all of these problems and the decision makers of the Department of Health in the previous administration, then they are liable.”
Duque said congressional hearings into the issue would start next week.
Sanofi said Thursday it was surprised by Duque’s remarks, adding it would continue to comply with Philippine authorities’ legal directives.
“Sanofi is a responsible company that has acted according to Philippine laws and regulations for the supply and sale of the vaccine according to the approved label in the country,” the company said in a statement emailed to AFP.


Business booms ahead of Afghan election

Campaign poster of the parliamentary candidate Fida Mohammad Olfat Saleh, is displayed over the shops during the elections campaign for the upcoming election in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2018. (AP)
Updated 17 October 2018
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Business booms ahead of Afghan election

  • Millions of dollars have been spent by some candidates during their month-long campaign, according to unofficial estimates

KABUL: If you want to hold a family function such as a birthday or wedding ceremony in Kabul’s posh hotels, you need to be patient and revise your schedule as they are usually booked up several weeks in advance.
The smell of food is often strong as you walk into these hotels, as thousands of kilograms of rice, meat, chicken and fruit are served daily.
The campaign for the Oct. 20 election has created a short-term boom for certain types of businesses in Kabul and other major cities. Many of the capital’s famous barbers and beauty salons have been working overtime in recent weeks and earning far more money than they normally do. So too have the media and advertising firms.
Millions of dollars have been spent by some candidates during their month-long campaign, according to unofficial estimates. Some even pay would-be voters and give them free food, but others cannot afford to do so. Candidate and former minister Ramazan Bashardost does not feed or pay people to vote. On the contrary, he sells his business cards to would-be voters to cover fuel money for his vehicle.
He urges them, “with a relaxed conscience,” to take food and cash from rich candidates, but to vote for those who have not enriched themselves via corruption.