Amid Remdesivir Shortage in India, Anti-Viral Against Covid-19 Now Being Sold in the Black Market as People Try to Benefit From a Pandemic
As India grapples with the spike in Covid-19 cases, several states including Maharashtra, Gujarat, Bangalore, Karnataka have reported a shortage of the anti-viral drug Remdesivir.
Although medical experts and even the WHO has maintained that it is not a proven cure against Covid-19, people are willing to try anything that gives them a ray of hope despite its uncertain impact.
With people lining up at pharmaceuticals and hospitals demanding the drug, a crunch in its supply has been reported giving rise to its hoarding and black marketing.
Reportedly, injections of Hetero-Remdesivir 100 mg of 20 ml, which is to be sold for Rs 1500 to 2000, are being sold for Rs 15000 to 25000 in the black market. It was also put up for sale on OLX for Rs 5,000–6,000 per vial.
Even social media platforms including Instagram and Twitter are awash with people requesting vials of Remdesivir to help treat their near and dear ones. The chaos and confusion surrounding the drug have made the situation worse.
Does Remdesivir cure Covid-19?
The Health Ministry has said that the drug must be given only to hospitalized patients who are low on oxygen. “It is an investigational drug. Its role has been clearly defined in the clinical management protocol. There is no question of the use of Remdesivir in home settings. That is unethical. It is only required for those hospitalized patients who are on oxygen. That is the pre-condition,” said NITI Aayog member Dr. V K Paul.
Remdesivir hasn’t been included in the Drug Control Act because it has not completed its clinical trials to establish its efficacy in treating COVID-19. Yet, at a time when cases are surging and with no proven cure against the Coronavirus, doctors are prescribing it indiscriminately having no other option for patients desperate to be healthy again.
The second wave of Coronavirus has witnessed an unprecedented demand for Remdesivir injection while the country is producing only 1.5 lakh units of the drug per day.
“At a time like this, the government should come forward to cancel patent rights and manufacture the drug on its own. Or it should issue emergency licenses to some more pharmaceutical companies to manufacture it”, said Dr. GR Ravindranath, General Secretary of Doctors Association for Social Equality.
However, the Indian Medical Association said that this is leading to a situation of artificial panic. “The shortage is resulting because of the non-judicious use of this drug in many places beyond the scope of its evidenced-based benefits. The public as well the medical community must be aware of the absolute indication of the drug and needs to use it judiciously so that the drug is used for those patients who will be benefitted”, it said in a statement.
Meanwhile, the Union Government has banned all exports of Remdesivir injection and Remdesivir Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients in view of the sudden spike in cases.
In a bid to ensure easy access to the drug, it has also ordered all domestic manufacturers to display details of their stockists/distributors on their website.
With the supply crunch expected to rise in the coming days, the country’s Remdesivir manufacturers — including Zydus Cadila, Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories, Sun Pharma, Viatris, and Cipla, have all issued statements to the effect of increasing production by almost 2x.
But until the demand-supply cycle regains balance this section of people would continue to black-market the drug, knowing it is the only option that those suffering from the disease have.
It is an unfortunate situation when millions of people are suffering from a pandemic while some have converted it into an opportunity to benefit off monetarily without any conscience.
These black market sellers and hoarders not only have blood on their hands but are trying to benefit from the plight and cries of people who have no option but to spend all their savings on medical supplies that are literally costing lakhs.