Delhi HC asks Centre for affidavit on Amphotericin-B, an anti-black fungus drug
The Delhi high court on Thursday asked the Union government to file an affidavit before it within three days, on the steps taken to ramp up the production of Amphotericin-B, an antifungal drug used to treat Mucormycosis, or black fungus, a life-threatening disease which is affecting patients who have recovered from the coronavirus disease (Covid-19).
“We are afraid that mere doubling of production may not suffice. It is not clear as to when the augmentation of production could be done in actual production. The Centre should immediately look into this aspect. A status report should be filed detailing the present production, the producers, their capacity, their enhanced capacity and by when can the enhanced capacity be put in use,” a high court bench, comprising Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Jasmeet Singh notified, resuming its hearing on the matter from Wednesday.
The bench further asked the Centre to place on record the steps taken by it to import the medicine from abroad, to be used in the country. “It appears that the domestic production of the medicine is far less for the requirement on all India basis,” it observed.
Responding to this, Kirtiman Singh, the Centre’s standing counsel, said, “There are five companies which are currently producing Amphotericin-B and the shortage is because the demand has increased due to the increase in demand. Also, the drug is only used in warmer countries and that too for mosquito bites.” Singh further said that the Centre would request for the drug from the countries which are producing it and also list steps to increase its production.
On this, the two-judge bench clarified that it was not questioning the allocation by the Centre. “The only thing is that the bridge between demand and supply must be bridged or else we will lose more precious lives. Float a global tender and ask internationally,” the bench directed the central government.
The court also noted that Delhi was facing a shortage of the drug, with the supply being just two-thirds of the quantity required by the national capital. This was over information provided by the Centre that the Capital got just over 3,000 vials of the drug as against the requirement of 8,400 vials per week.
The bench was further informed by the Centre that Delhi deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia had written to them seeking 1 lakh vials for the city. However, it said that such a demand would amount to “hoarding” of the essential drug. On this, Rahul Mehra, representing the Delhi government, said, “The current requirement is about 15,000-18,000 vials per week and the government is seeking more as it wants to create a buffer since cases of black fungus might increase in the coming days.”
At a time when daily Covid-19 cases have seen a relative decline in Delhi, cases of black fungus have been on the rise. There are at least 185 patients who have contracted the disease, according to hospitals. On Thursday, chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said that he has directed three government hospitals in the city to set up dedicated centres for black fungus cases.
The issue of shortage of Amphotericin-B was first raised in the high court on Wednesday during a hearing on a clutch of petitions on Covid-19 management in the city. The court had directed both the governments -- central and Delhi -- to respond to reports of the shortage of the drug.