A month after the Centre permitted the retail sale of Tamiflu — the anti-viral drug used to cure influenza A H1N1 — the Delhi government is yet to allow designated chemists to sell the drug.
“No, we haven’t issued permission yet, as we didn’t feel the need to start retail sale so far,” said Health Minister Kiran Walia.
“Those who are doing it are doing it on their own.”
What most designated pharmacists are selling at the moment is the Indian version of the medicine called Fluvir.
Designated chemists are those who are licensed to sell Schedule X drugs— drugs that come under narcotics category.
There are 28 drugstores in Delhi that have the licence to sell Schedule X drug,s and none of them are selling the actual brand Tamiflu.
The exorbitant pricing of Tamiflu—allegedly due to black-marketing—is forcing chemists across the National Capital to look for its substitute brands.
The health minister, however, said she was not aware about any substitute drugs.
“I have no knowledge of the brand Fluvir. Even in WHO or central government guidelines, I have found no mention of this brand name,” said Walia.
Some chemists said irregular distribution of the drug from the source point was an issue.
“Tamiflu is not coming in through proper channels,” said a designated drugstore owner, who did not wish to be identified. “The drug is sold at a premium and the strips do not have the maximum retail price on them,” the owner said.
Swiss company Roche markets the drug oseltamivir phosphate under the brand name Tamiflu worldwide.
In India Hetero— a Hyderabad-based company, manufactures the drug under the name Fluvir, which costs less.
A strip of 10 Fluvir tablets currently costs Rs 449 in the market. A strip of 10 of Tamiflu tablets can cost anywhere between Rs 2,500 to 5,500.
Chemists, however, are cautious while selling the medicine.
When this reporter went to New Delhi Medicos near Ram Manohar Lohia hospital, she was asked to produce a copy of the positive test report, along with two prescriptions from any of the designated government hospitals signed and stamped.