Covid-19 drugs racket: Three more pharmacists, some hospitals under scanner

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Published on Jul 30, 2020 11:39 PM IST
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ByHT Correspondent, Gurugram

Gurugram Police after initial investigations have stumbled upon the names of three more pharmacists who helped in the alleged smuggling of Covid-19 and cancer treatment medicines to Iraq by four interpreters, who were nabbed on Tuesday.

Police said they were also investigating if the arrested suspects had links with certain hospitals.

Senior police officials associated with the investigation said on Thursday that the role of some hospitals had come under scanner after vials and injections of remdesivir — an experimental drug administered to Covid-19 patients in emergency situations — were recovered in two raids this week.

Investigators said that since remdesivir is directly supplied from manufacturing companies to the hospitals and there are no stockists of the drug, individuals associated with certain hospitals, local pharmacies and their nexus, in procuring and supplying medicines illegally to the arrested suspects, is being probed. The four Iraqi suspects arrested on Tuesday worked as interpreters at private hospitals and allegedly had ‘connections’ with distributors of pharmaceutical products.

Aman Yadav, assistant commissioner of police (ACP), Sadar, said, “The suspects have named three more pharmacists, who were allegedly involved in procuring and supplying injections to them. We have also received leads to suggest links with hospitals and an investigation to probe those links has been initiated. There could be other stakeholders involved . The investigation is now focused on making more arrests for which raids are being conducted.”

On Wednesday night, the police had arrested a pharmacist, identified as Pardeep, who runs a medical store in Jharsa sector 38, for allegedly supplying remdesivir injections to the Iraqi suspects. Eighty four vials of Remdesivir, which the pharmacist had hidden in a room adjacent to a tubewell in his village near Pataudi, were recovered after a raid by police and officials of drug control department.

Police said during questioning, Pardeep had named a Delhi-based supplier, from whom he had purchased the injections for Rs 15,000 per vial and then sold it to an Iraqi interpreter for Rs 18,000 per vial, without an invoice. The Iraqis had paid him Rs 15 lakh for supplying 84 remdesivir injections, which were supposed to be smuggled to Iraq through medical tourism patients. In Iraq, a vial of remdesivir, which costs Rs 5400 in India, is sold for Rs 1 lakh.

A police official privy to the investigation, requesting anonymity, said, “Based on inputs given by the pharmacist, a team had conducted a raid late on Wednesday night to trace the alleged supplier of remdesivir, but he was not found at the location shared by the accused.”

Police said that two of the Iraqi suspects had earlier claimed that they had sourced some of the medicines from Kolkata, but in sustained questioning, they did not reveal any contacts or location of their supplier. “The suspects have not shared any specific location in Kolkata and have only mentioned names of a contact in Kolkata and one in the city, who was their supplier for the past six months,” said another police officer.

Meanwhile, the pharmacist, Pardeep, was produced in a district court on Thursday and remanded to police custody for two days. Two Iraqi suspects arrested from sector 57 are currently in police custody till Saturday, while other two Iraqi nationals were remanded to two more days of police custody.

On Tuesday, the police had arrested four Iraqi nationals in two separate raids from sector 47 and sector 57 after the drug control department had received a tip-off. Forty eight vials of Remdesivir, 55 strips of Fabiflu (Favipiravir) and 18 packs of Lopikast — the three drugs used in the treatment of patients infected with SARS-CoV-2 virus — among a large cache of antibiotics, antacids, anti-allergic and other cancer treatment medicines were recovered in the raid. One SUV and Rs 74.55 lakh cash was also seized.

Police probe has found that the suspects had been smuggling medicines to Iraq for at least two years and since the pandemic, they had started dealing primarily in drugs used to treat Covid-19 which were in short supply and sold at exorbitant prices in Iraq.

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