‘Everyone is living this hell’: Delhi high court on antifungal shortage
“We are living this hell. Everyone is living this hell. It’s a situation where we want to help but we are helpless,” the Delhi high court said on Friday while showing its helplessness in not being able to help anyone approaching the court for supply of Amphotericin-B, a medicine used for treatment of mucormycosis, commonly referred to as the black fungus infection.
“This is a problem we all are facing. We are living this hell. All of us are living this hell where, despite our wanting to help everyone, we are not able to help,” a bench of justices Vipin Sanghi and Jasmeet Singh remarked while hearing a plea by a man who had moved to the court seeking adequate supply of Amphotericin-B.
The bench, while asking the Centre to give the status of import of the medicine, said it cannot give preferential treatment to anyone while denying it to others.
“The Union of India shall place a report giving the detailed current status of the said imports. It will be considered on Monday. It has to indicate how the figure of 2.3 lakh vials was arrived at, and whether there is a greater availability of the drug which could be imported,” the bench ordered after the Centre told the court that steps are being taken to procure 230,000 vials of Liposomal Amphotericin-B from six countries.
The court asked the Centre to return on May 31 with a “definite statement” on the status of these 230,000 vials. It also said that the order should have reached the country from Australia, Russia, Germany, Argentina, Belgium and China, after a submission by the Centre’s counsel that the requisition was placed on May 24.
“We are running against time. If you placed the order on May 24, today it should have been here… We are only expressing our anxiety because... every hour, it is assuming a new proportion,” the bench said, adding that “the effort here is to save lives and every hour matters”.
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The court was hearing two petitions seeking medicine vials for two patients admitted in Delhi hospitals. On Friday, advocate Rizwan, appearing for one of the petitioners, told the court his client’s eye had to be removed due to the shortage of the drug.
The issue of shortage was first raised by lawyer-petitioner Rakesh Malhotra in a batch of petitions seeking better facilities on Covid-19 for the residents of the city.
The Centre, during the proceedings, informed the court that there are 14,872 patients under treatment for black fungus in the country. It said that Delhi had 423 patients, even as the city government has put the figure above 600.
“Out of the sources that have been presently identified abroad, the ministry of health and family welfare (MoHFW) on May 24 has called upon ministry of external affairs (MEA) to take steps to procure 230,000 vials of Liposomal Amphotericin-B from Australia, Russia, Germany, Argentina, Belgium and China.
“MEA has also been called upon to procure 50,000 tablets of Isavuconazole. Steps in this regard are being taken by the MEA,” the Centre told the court.
It said that the domestic production of Amphotericin-B has gone up from 62,000 vials per month in April to 140,000 vials in May. It is expected to reach 325,114 vials in June, the Centre said. It said the main impediment in granting more licences for manufacture of Amphotericin-B injection is the worldwide shortage of the raw materials.
The Centre submitted that 400 vials were allocated to Delhi government on May 24, 300 vials on May 26, and 1,920 vials on May 27.