The raids conducted by National Bureau of Investigation agents on Sincere Drug Store branches and their storage facility in Bacolod City last month were legitimate, they acted on a complaint that the pharmacies were selling counterfeit United Laboratories Inc. products, Rommel Vallejo, Intellectual Property Rights Division chief, said yesterday.
Vallejo was reacting to the statement of Ricky Enriquez, manager of the Sincere chain of drugstores, that his firm is filing multi-million peso damage suits against the NBI, Unilab and TV 5 Manila for “tarnishing” the reputation of their stores.
Before applying for a search warrant to conduct the raid, NBI agents conducted a test-buy operation and were able to purchase alleged counterfeit Unilab medicines from one of the branches of Sincere drugs stores, Vallejo said.
The NBI had earlier received complaints from Unilab that several drug stores in Bacolod City and in other areas in Region 6, including Sincere drugstores, were distributing counterfeit products.
The confiscated medicines from the Sincere chain of drug stores amounting to P2 million underwent examination at the quality assurance division of Unilab and the company issued preliminary certification that they are indeed counterfeit, Vallejo said.
It was not necessary to coordinate with the Bureau of Food and Drug Administration as the raid was conducted on the basis of an infringement complaint and not for violation of BFAD laws, Vallejo also said.
It is up to the court to determine whether the confiscated medicines, which are now being kept in a bonded warehouse, should be sent to BFAD for examination, he said.
Vallejo called the claim of Enriquez that the medicines were purchased from the Negros Grand Ventures Industries Inc., which is the sole distributor of Unilab products in Negros island and Siquijor province, a “matter of defense”.
The NBI can only check on the medicines sold by NGVII if a formal complaint is lodged against it, he added.
NGVII’s legal counsel Teodulo Cario, in a letter sent to Enriquez’s legal counsel Jonathan Ealdama, said that the establishment has no knowledge of the existence of the alleged fake medicines sold to Sincere drug stores.
Cario said their records show that Enriquez started purchasing medicines from NGVII from March 15 to April 29, 2011 and on June 23, 2011 and that all the medicine they sold to Sincere drug stores were marked by a LOT number.
The alleged counterfeit medicines found at Sincere branches may have been purchased from a different source, he added.
If the medicines confiscated by the NBI bear the genuine lot number to indicate that they come from NGVII, Cario assured that their firm will face its responsibility. NGVII will resort to legal action for unfounded charges against his client, Cario added.
NGVII is demanding that Enriquez pay it P1,671,851.07 for the medicines he purchased from April 29, 2011 to June 23, 2011, he added.
Enriquez said he is still going to include NGVII in the damage suit he is filing. He also said that Unilab should apologize because the raid on their drug stores has affected their reputation.
The NBI and Unilab should have filed the eight counts of infringement charges against Sincere at the Regional Trial Court in Bacolod City instead of filing them before the DOJ, which is not the proper forum, Enriquez also said.
While Unilab is claiming that the counterfeit products were sold, it has not released any advisory on how to detect fake medicines, Enriquez added.
He said after what happened, they are no longer going to purchase and sell Unilab products.*APN