As second wave of Covid grips MP, govt struggles to procure life-saving Remdesivir drug

In videos that have gone viral on social media, people are seen thronging drug stores for Remdesiver in Dawa Bazar.

Grappling with a second wave of Covid-19 as several states are, Madhya Pradesh is also struggling to procure the life-saving Remdesivir drug amid growing demand for it. Angry locals, who stood in long queues outside medicine shops in Indore, blocked roads as they could not get the drug. The city topped the state’s caseload on Thursday with 898 infections. Several cases of black marketing have also come to light, with people being asked to pay over Rs 5,000 to Rs 10,000 for these vials.

The anti-viral drug, first manufactured in 2014 to fight Ebola virus, has been used to treat Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) patients before it was directed for Covid-19 treatment last year.

Sanjay Soni (55), who tested positive for the virus and has been under treatment at Gokuldas hospital, is one of hundreds struggling to obtain the drug. His son came away empty-handed from almost all drug stores, with the chemists saying that they had run out of stock.

Speaking to The Indian Express, Additional Collector, Indore, Abhay Bedekar said, “We currently have no stock of Remdesivir. We received around 400 vials yesterday but have run out of them. While our daily need is of 7,000 vials, we are told that the state has received around 2,000 vials. We are awaiting supply.”

In videos that have gone viral on social media, people are seen thronging drug stores for Remdesiver in Dawa Bazar.

The Madhya Pradesh government had placed an order for 20,000 vials of Remdesiver, of which it has received 2,000 so far. With 4,324 positive cases reported in MP on Thursday, its highest single-day rise, and a positive ratio of 12.9 per cent, the daily need of Remdesivir in the state is now estimated to be around 13,000 vials.

However, according to Nishant Warwade, commissioner, Medical Education, the 2,000 vials that the state government has received will be distributed across all medical colleges as per their caseload. Speaking to this daily, he said, “This is an additional arrangement that the state government has made and it needs to be administered as per the prescribed protocol of the health ministry. It will be sent to medical colleges but to whom it will be administered is a decision that rests with the specialist at the medical college concerned.”

MGM Medical College in Indore has been made as the nodal agency for the distribution of Remdesivir vials to all medical colleges of the state. Speaking to this newspaper, MGM Dean Sanjay Dixit said, “These vials will be given to severely ill patients in ICU and will be distributed across the state depending on the dosage and the caseload. We are in the process of assessing it.”

Asked why, despite a need of 13,000 vials per day, the state was in the process of procuring 20,000 vials only, Dixit said the calculation is as per the caseloads in medical colleges, according to a government guideline issued on April 7, and not district hospitals or private healthcare facilities.

“A robust system is needed and this is the beginning,” added Dixit.

While the state is struggling to procure Remdesivir, the central government is also coordinating with manufacturers to ensure that the orders of the state governments concerned are honoured on a priority basis.

The state government, on April 7, had issued guidelines on using Remdesivir for treatment of patients with moderate to severely affected cases. It reiterated that the use of Remdesivir has been sanctioned for restricted use, based on the prescription by a specialist and is to be used in hospital or an institutional set-up only. The guidelines also stipulate that hospitals should maintain a record of patients who have been administered the drug as well as the nature of emergency which prompted the specialist to recommend its use.

To regulate the demand of Remdesivir at private hospitals and nursing homes, the Food & Drug Administration has authorised a nodal agency to channel the demand in private hospitals and connect them to drug manufacturers.

“We have coordinated with the manufacturers concerned and private hospitals have sent their demands to collectors and are placing orders with the manufacturers as well to get their vials as soon as possible,” said P Narahari, commissioner, FDA. An official from Hetero healthcare said that they will be sending a consignment of vials to MP by Friday evening.

Assuring measures to check black marketing of the life-saving vials, Narahari added, “We have issued a letter that only hospitals will be provided with Remidisver and they will not be sold over the counters. We will also be carrying out surprise inspections and teams have been formed for the purpose. Action will be taken against any stockists who are indulging in such acts.”

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