Trust is when you feel safe with somebody.
Is Health Secretary Francisco Duque playing the lead role in a rumored bid to get beleaguered Sanofi-Pasteur off the hook in connection with the raging dengue vaccine brouhaha?
There have been concerns recently that current government health officials appear to be “going soft” on Sanofi-Pasteur. The view is that none of them, including Duque, has gone out of the way to hold the pharmaceutical giant accountable for the widespread anger and fear following the Dengvaxia controversy.
A recent incident at the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearing on Dengvaxia could only fan suspicions that such a bid is in the offing.
In that particular hearing early this month, a senior official of the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) confessed before the Blue Ribbon Committee that he had indeed violated internal rules and procedures of the regulatory agency.
Dr. Benjamin Co, FDA-Center for Drug Registration director, admitted that he had received a USB from a representative of Sanofi-Pasteur.
The manner in which the said USB was delivered by the Sanofi-Pasteur and received by Co can only be viewed with much suspicion. It was in clear violation of an FDA rule which prohibited officials and employees of the agency from dealing directly with external parties – particularly pharmaceutical companies.
The procedure, based on FDA rules, is this: all documents are to be received by the FDA Action Center. That Center then determines to whom the documents should be endorsed and sends it to the proper internal unit.
Co confessed he broke that rule. The USB was delivered directly to him and received by him directly from the Sanofi-Pasteur representative.
What Co said at the Senate hearing were incriminating, to say the least.
Co said he did not look at what the USB contains and alleged that he instead sent it directly to the Department of Health (DoH) – to Secretary Duque’s office in particular.
In effect, Co had insinuated that the intended beneficiary of that USB is Duque and that he was merely acting as a conduit. In effect, Co had told Blue Ribbon Committee Chairman Richard Gordon that “it is Secretary Duque you should run after regarding that USB and not me”.
Unfortunately, damage has been done and suspicions have already been raised. Co appears to have already “implicated” Duque in what the public fears is a powerful lobby operated by a wealthy pharmaceutical firm inside the health department.
Ped Xing prefers to give Secretary Duque the benefit of the doubt. After all, Co is not a Duque nominee. Co is said to be a protégé of ousted Health Secretary Paulynn Ubial. If Duque has been very careful regarding his statements on Dengvaxia and Sanofi-Pasteur, this is the result of his trademark prudence and sobriety, and may have nothing to do with being in the pocket of big business.
Secetary Co should throw the ball right back to Co. The health secretary has nothing to explain.
It is Co who should explain why he has “graciously accepted” the duty to act as conduit for a Sanofi-Pasteur concern – a move that violated the rules of his agency and which may have put his career in danger. It baffles us that a Filipino doctor and government executive would be willing to risk his reputation just to serve the interest of a business entity he is supposed to be regulating.
It is also Co’s responsibility to the people to tell the public what is in that USB. His salary comes from the people. He should serve their interest first – unless, of course, the gratitude and reciprocity of a big business entity like Sanofi-Pasteur is greater than what the people can afford to pay him.
Co still has a chance to salvage whatever is left of the esteem of the public and of his colleagues in his profession. He should come clean.
By disclosing the full content and the whole story regarding his performance of conduit duties for Sanofi-Pasteur, he can help assure the public that the FDA, which is tasked with regulating the pharmaceutical industry, is actually protecting them.
For his part, Duque should compel this Ubial protégé to make a full disclosure regarding Co’s dealing with Sanofi-Pasteur. He should make sure Co’s full disclosure is sufficient to dispel any public suspicion that Secretary Duque is helping Sanofi-Pasteur get out of the mess it is currently deeply mired in.
Co may not have committed a criminal act by disobeying internal rules and procedures. However, he has dented the trust of the public in an agency for whom trust is a primary basis for its existence.
Behold God’s glory
And seek His mercy
Pause and Pray, people.