SOS calls for black fungus drug as cases rise in Delhi
With cases of mucormycosis on the rise, families of patients are struggling to procure Amphotericin B — an anti-fungal drug prescribed for the treatment of the disease, with pharmacies in Delhi citing unavailability due to increase in demand.
Mucormycosis, or black fungus, is a life-threatening disease that is affecting recovered Covid-19 patients. It is more common among those who have high blood sugar levels, are immuno-compromised or have been administered too many steroids during the treatment of Covid-19, say doctors.
The government is regulating the supply of the drug to prevent its indiscriminate use and black marketing. Delhi health minister Satyendar Jain said: “The treatment of the infection can be done only in hospitals, so the drug is directly being given to hospitals.”
Two days ago, Payal, a Pune-resident, lost her uncle who was getting treated for black fungus in Delhi. The family was unable to procure the drug after trying for days. "We made more than 100 calls for two straight days but couldn't get hold of the drug. The hospital had shared a prescription with us. We went from pillar to post to no avail. Before we could procure the medicine, my uncle died following a heart attack," said Payal. The family reached out to pharmacies in Pune and Delhi but most didn't have a stock. Multiple pharmacies in the city said that Liposomal Amphotericin B is not available in the market and there is no clarity on when the supply will regularise.
Sandeep Nangia, organising secretary of the All India Organisation of Chemists and Druggists (AIOCD), said Amphotericin B was not available in the market and clarity on its supply was awaited. “Amphotericin B is not available right now. We will have to wait for the supply chain to be regularised. Due to a sudden spike in demand, we have run out of stock. Once the stock is replenished, we can expect an improvement in the situation,” said Nangia.
Ashok Malik, proprietor of Malik International Pharmaceutical, said the demand for the drug has increased substantially in the past week. “Amphotericin B is not available with us. We are getting at least 500 calls daily but can’t do anything if there is no supply. As per a government directive, manufacturers will send the stock straight to hospitals,” he said.
Sai Distributors said the drug is not available for the past two weeks.
“We have four callers all of them have been receiving at least 500 calls each, seeking amphotericin B,” said Gaurav, an associate at Sai Distributors.
Volunteer networks said on Wednesday they have been receiving SOS calls for the drug. Dr Suvrankar Datta, a junior resident at AIIMS, who is a member of a network of doctors helping patients with resources, said the distribution of the anti-fungal drug was not equitable. “Many hospitals have an adequate stock, which is likely to last for months whereas other hospitals don’t have any stock. We are continuously getting SOS calls,” said Datta.
Bhavreen Kandhari, an activist, who has been involved in verifying leads and sharing credible information pertaining to bed availability, oxygen, and plasma, said while the government has put out a new notification, hospitals are asking patients to procure the drug from outside. “While the government has said that hospitals will arrange the medicine for the patients, we don’t see it happening since family members of patients are reaching out to us with requests,” said Kandhari.
Yogita Bhayana, another activist, who has been dealing with Covid-related SOS calls, said sourcing medicines for mucormycosis was proving to be a new challenge. Stating that she has been receiving many calls seeking help in arranging Amphotericin B, Bhavana said, “I made many calls but it’s difficult to find Liposomal Amphotericin B. Pharmacies are telling us that the drug is not available in the market for the past 15 days. In such a situation, we are unable to help people.”