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Despite centralised Remdesivir distribution, cops recover 27 vials from black market

Two separate units of police in Pune district have collectively seized a total of 27 Remdesivir injections that had landed in the black market, within a day
By Shalaka Shinde, Pune
PUBLISHED ON MAY 10, 2021 10:02 PM IST

Two separate units of police in Pune district have collectively seized a total of 27 Remdesivir injections that had landed in the black market, within a day. The injections are floating in the clandestine black-market weeks after the district collector’s office centralised the process to regulate the flow of the experimental drug from the manufacturers to the hospitals treating the patients directly through the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

In one raid, the Pimpri-Chinchwad police found 21 vials of the drug, while in the other raid, the Pune rural police found six vials of Remdesivir.

The three arrested by officials of Wakad police station of Pimpri-Chinchwad police were identified as Krushna Ramrao Patil (22), a nursing staff member at Crystal Hospital in Thergaon; Nikhil Keshav Neharkar (19), a delivery executive living in Annex Hospital, Chinchwad; and Shashikant Raghunath Panchal (34), a chemist working at Ayushri Medical store in Chinchwad.

They were collectively found in possession of 21 vials of the drug and cash, according to the police.

Patil and Neharkar were arrested by police at 2:45am on Sunday at a check post along Kalewadi Phata. Two vials of Remdesivir were found in their possession while the permit for sale was absent, according to the police.

“After taking them in custody, they revealed that the Remdesivir injections found from them was taken from Ayushri Medical in Chinchwad in order to sell at a price higher than the one prescribed,” read a statement from Pimpri-Chinchwad police.

Upon searching Panchal’s Maruti Swift car, the police found a total of 19 more vials. All the vials were of Hetro company.

They have been booked under Sections 420 (cheating) and 188 of Indian Penal Code (IPC) along with relevant sections of Drug Price Control Order, 2013; Essential Commodities Act, 1955; and Drug and Cosmetics Act, 1940 registered at Wakad police station.

In another incident, the Pune rural police found three men in possession of six Remdesivir and one Actemra (Tocilizubam) injection in Kurkumbh MIDC area in Daund at 2pm on Sunday.

The three men were identified as Dattatray Maruti Londhe, Aditya Anirudha Wagh, and Amol Narsingh Munde, according to the police.

The three also had cash worth 51,500 and were found moving near the gates of a company in the MIDC area on one Activa and one Santro car.

A case under relevant sections of IPC and Drugs and Cosmetics Act 1940 was registered against them at Daund police station.

As per the district collector’s order, the distribution of Remdesivir has to be done directly to the hospitals. In a nutshell, the seven distributor companies and hospitals in the district have to give their stock availability and requirement numbers to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officials respectively and the FDA, along with the district collector’s office deconstructs the figures to put the hospitals in touch with the right distributor. However, due to various lacunae, including friction in the procurement process and leak in the hospitals, the vials land up in the black market.

“The Pune Municipal Corporation has provided us with a Google form. This form does not ask for the names but the number of patients who require Remdesivir. The information that we fill in the google form goest to the FDA every evening. The information is processed and on a WhatsApp group, a list is published. This list lets us know which distributor has been allocated to us for the drug. We contact the distributor, and the location is decided thereafter,” said Anuradha Temkar, executive assistant of director, Poona Hospital while explaining what the hospitals are required to do.

“The process is highly monitored. Hospitals have to register the patients in their hospital who require the injection and submit it to the FDA officials. The district collector’s office along with FDA allocates stock to the hospital. Procurement is done by hospital. Every company gives their list of availability to the district authorities. Every hospital representative comes to the distributor to purchase the stock. It is random allocation as per available stock with stockists in particular region,” said Nilesh Amritkar, Shloka Enterprises, Sadashiv peth who is a distributor for Jubilliant.

While the process has reduced the struggle for patients at major hospitals, the fear instilled by unavailability by the hospital forces relatives of patients to explore the black market to save their loved ones.

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