Black fungus cases grow, but Amphotericin B in short supply
With over 620 patients being treated for mucormycosis in city hospitals, Delhi is facing a severe shortage of the only last-line drug for the lethal fungal infection.
The city has received 3,850 vials of Amphotericin B till Tuesday, against a requirement of over 30,000 doses a week, said senior officials in Delhi’s health department.
“Delhi received some 400 vials of the medicine yesterday (Tuesday) and another 400 the day before. For 620 patients, Delhi needs nearly 4,000 vials of the medicine a day. The shortage is delaying patients’ treatment,” said Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal on Wednesday.
State health minister Satyendar Jain said: “On May 23, 200 cases of the infection were reported. Now, there are around 70 cases being reported each day. Delhi has been allocated very few doses of Amphotericin when compared with this number. Of the total patients with black fungus, nearly two-thirds are from Delhi and the rest are from outside the state.”
Instances of mucormycosis, commonly known as black fungus, have shot up in the Capital as a complication among some Covid-19 patients, after a surge in Covid-19 cases between mid-April and early May. Over 100 patients with the fungal infection are currently being treated at AIIMS. The premier hospital used to receive only about 12 to 15 cases in a year before the pandemic, according to doctors.
Officials said that a patient being treated for black fungus needs at least 50 vials of Amphotericin B every week.
“Some need 100 vials as well. It depends on the severity of the infection... Due to the shortage, we are unable to issue all 50 vials [for a patient] in one go, so we give 10 to 20 vials at a time,” said an official at Delhi’s drug control department. The Delhi government has written to the Centre asking for 100,000 doses of the medicine over a two-month period, arguing that Delhi is likely to see around 1,000 cases of the fungal infection at its peak.
The state has also set up an expert panel who approve hospitals’ requests for the medicine.
“Earlier, patients had to go around the city looking for the medicine. Now, the government ensures that we get it. If someone needs the medicine urgently, we give it from another patient’s quota and replenish it later,” said Dr SCL Gupta, medical superintendent, Batra hospital.
However, some patients said they are still running from pillar to post to get the medicine.
The brother of a 35-year-old woman suffering from the infection said, “My sister has been given 10 doses of the medicines so far, but doctors said she will need another 50. I have probably been to every big medical store in the city, but I cannot find it.”