IMA opposes move to make Covid-19 report must to buy remdesivir and tocilizumab
Days after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) made it mandatory for customers to show prescriptions and Covid-19 test report to buy remdesivir and tocilizumab drugs, the Indian Medical Association (IMA) on Monday wrote a letter to the state government criticising the apex drug regulating body’s decision. It said the move will make it more difficult for patients and their families to procure the drugs as a number of times test reports show false negatives or inconclusive results, and urged the body to make the drugs available with only prescription or recommendation from hospital.
Members of IMA said every day Maharashtra requires almost 1.5 lakh vials of remdesivir and that hospitals across the state are facing an acute shortage of the two drugs. Due to the sudden rise in demand for these drugs, suppliers are selling them to highest bidders, said IMA. According to patients and doctors, the drugs are available at five to 10 times the actual cost in the black market.
A vial of remdesivir costs between ₹5,000 and ₹5,500 while that of tocilizumab is around ₹92,000.
“These illegal activities are happening due to sudden rise in demand. Almost 20% patients need the drugs. At present, we have more than 1 lakh active patients. In addition to this, if we include around 5,000 patients with inconclusive reports, we have 25,000 patients who need remdesivir every day,” said Dr Avinash Bhondwe, president of IMA’s state wing.
“As we give remdesivir six times a day, the state will require 1.5 lakh vials every day. But we don’t even get 75,000 vials a day,” he added.
Remdesivir is the only drug approved by the United States food and drug administration for treating Covid-19 patients. While tocilizumab is still imported, remdesivir has now been certified to be manufactured by two Indian companies Cipla and Hetero Drugs.
To address these issues, FDA has decided that these two injections will directly be supplied to hospitals. However, outside patients, who need to buy the said drugs, will have to show a prescription or a recommendation from hospital as well the Covid-19 report to place an order.
“There are cases of false negative reporting where swab test reports show absence of the virus but the patients have all the symptoms. In such cases, we can’t let the patient die off. Thus, this new rule will further lead to the harassment of patients,” he said.
DR Gahane, joint commissioner of the state’s food and drug administration, said they will look into the matter. “We are trying to track the nexus involved in illegal sale of the drugs. The rules are being strengthened to fill up the gaps and provide the drugs to needy patients,” he said.