CHD admits lack of antivenom

Cebu City Hall
Cebu City Hall(Google steet view)

THERE is no antivenom available at the Cebu City Health Department (CHD).

If the CHD had an antivenom, it could not administer it.

These were the admission of the CHD to the Cebu City Council following the council’s request to CHD to store or acquire antivenom drugs following increased sightings of snakes, specifically of king cobra, in Cebu.

CHD head Daisy Villa, in a letter to the council, dated Jan. 30, 2024, said CHD’s vaccine services are only limited to cat and dog bites, as well as the anti-tetanus vaccine.

Villa said the purchase of the antivenom is also not included in its 2024 annual budget.

She also said the absence of trained personnel to administer the drugs is also one of the factors that keep them from offering such service.

“As much as this office would like to provide immediate medication to the patients, we are constrained due to the absence of trained personnel and antivenom vaccine,” reads a portion of the letter.

Villa also said in the letter that selling and purchasing of antivenom is regulated.

SunStar Cebu tried to reach Villa on Sunday, Feb. 11, to ask for requirements or conditions needed to be complied with to purchase antivenom drugs, but messages remained unanswered as of press time.

Currently, the CHD’s protocol when a patient with a snakebite is brought to their office is to refer the patient to its animal bite treatment center or the outpatient department. The patient then will be directed to Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center (VSMMC).

In her letter, Villa said they chose VSMCC as it is a government hospital that is allowed to purchase antivenom through compassionate social grounds that require specific documents.

Previous reports said the polyvalent antivenom at VSMMC holds solely the compassionate special permit (CSP) issued by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), signifying its limited accessibility for commercial distribution.

According to the FDA, the CSP is an authorization “signed by the FDA director general granting a qualified institution such as the Department of Health (DOH), a specialized institution, and a DOH-licensed hospital, or a qualified licensed physician the privilege to avail an unregistered or unauthorized drug product, vaccine, or medical device through an FDA-licensed establishment for its restricted use.”

Villa, in the letter, is hopeful that the recent incidents of snake sightings in Cebu would prompt the DOH to offer or conduct training for the personnel of hospitals and health centers on the handling of patients bitten by venomous insects or animals.

For his part, Cebu City Councilor Nestor Archival urged the CHD to come up with a comprehensive program intended for snakebite incidents.

Archival asked the CHD to submit its plans on or before Feb. 28.

“Cebu City is a highly urbanized city and it is expected (that) we (should) have trained personnel to respond to life-threatening cases,” said Archival during the regular session on Wednesday, Feb. 7.

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