Remdesivir, an antiviral drug, known to reduce recovery time for COVID patients, is sold on the Delhi and Mumbai black markets at almost ten times its original cost. Remdesivir’s MRP is Rs 5,400; however, the hospital said that after adding treatment and other expenses; it costs a patient is about Rs 7,000.
According to sources, Delhi’s top hospitals complained that the drug is only available in the black market due to supply shortage.
A senior oncologist from a top hospital stated: “The cost ranges from Rs 45,000 to Rs 70,000, depending on the urgency of the buyer and seller.”
According to distribution norms, companies have allowed to produce and sell the product are supposed to supply it only to hospitals, not to chemists.
Hetero Labs Ltd is the only company that manufactures and distributes the drug. According to a statement issued by Hetero Laboratories on June 21, the company received approval for the production and sale of the antiviral drug ‘Remdesivir’ by DCGI and its generic version will be sold in India under the “COVIFOR” brand. So far, the company has provided approximately 30,000 vials of COVIFOR to several hospitals.
The president of the Indian Pharmaceutical Association (IPA), Dr. TV Narayana accused the company of deciding to supply drugs directly to patients for this crisis.
One of the COVID-19 patients immediately got oxygen support, and the doctor prescribed him the remdesivir drug. He needs to take Remdesivir for 5 days, 200 mg intravenously on the first day, and then 100 mg IV daily for 4 days.
The hospital informed his family that the drug had run out of the stock, so they needed to buy the drug from outside for administration.
The tribulation for the family has begun. Family members have contacted other hospitals and distributors, but the answer was a drug is out of stock or wait for 5 days.
Remdesivir drug’s cost is 30,000 rupees per 100-mg vial in the black market; this is almost six times the retail price of drugs manufactured by Hetero. After using some powerful contacts and calling the company directly, they were able to obtain two doses, which was sufficient for the next two days. However, not many people are as fortunate as this patent’s family to have the right contact to obtain this medicine.
“People forged prescriptions and contacted the company’s sales director, who directly provided them this drug. Although they kept records of supply to individuals, I believe this is how it has gone in the wrong hands.” Narayana said.
According to sources, in Bombay Municipal Corporation (BMC) hospitals (such as Sion Hospital, KEM Hospital, and Nair Hospital) that are treating a large number of COVID-19 patients have not yet started the use of remdesivir antiviral drugs. However, as the company places an order with Hetero, BMC Hospital will soon obtain the drug.
Max Hospitals stated that it has adequate stock of Remdesivir for their patients.
There is a shortage of remdesivir drugs in Fortis hospital since the drug is now recommended as a first-line treatment for moderate to severe COVID-19 disease, and there has been an increase in demand. Based on the requirements, we are currently managing through inter- units transfer available stock within hospitals. We will soon get assurance for the further stock supply from manufacturers, Fortis said.
We are not aware of Remdesivir drug’s black marketing. We understand that other manufacturers will also enter the market soon, and we hope this will alleviate the supply shortage to some extent.
A person who is aware of the matter on condition of anonymity he told that although there is a lack of Remdesivir drug, a large portion of the supplies transferred to the black market, where they are sold at high prices.”
In India, nearly 8 lakh cases of coronavirus have been reported and 276682 are active cases. Out of these cases mostly are asymptomatic and mild, and the remaining 20% are moderate and require oxygen support. Remdesivir has been approved by the Indian Drug Regulatory Agency for the treatment of such moderate oxygen support cases.
Continue Shortage of Remdesivir drug
Although it has been nearly two weeks since the DCGI approved Remdesivir’s generic versions that are Cipla and Hetero drugs, patients are still struggling to obtain the drug despite the company scramble to secure supply.
According to sources, in Mumbai Remdesivir and Tocilizumab stocks at Byculla Pharmacy and stores were exhausted on July 5. However, according to drug manufacturer Cipla, the stock will replenish by the end of this week.
Cipla’s medicines are not yet available in the market, and the 20,000 vials of medicine originally provided by Hetero are almost exhausted.
Tamil Nadu Government (42,500 vials) and BMC (15,000 vials) ordered Hetero to supply the remdesivir drugs. The company stated it directly supplies to private hospitals in Delhi and Mumbai.
Cipla spokesperson said that its Remdesivir drug is on track and shall be launched within the next 3-4 days. According to sources, Cipla’s partners have manufacturing capabilities and can supply 45,000 to 80,000 bottles per month.
Cipla priced the drug at Rs 4,000 per 100 mg vial, while Hetero is priced at Rs 5,400. For bulk orders such as BMC placed, the price of Hetero is Rs 4,144 per vial.
A Hetero spokesperson stated “The hospital is seeking supply from us and we are increasing production. Manufacturing is in progress and new supply will enter the market starting soon”
The spokesperson appended: ” Remdesivir’s manufacturing is a complex process; also, it is an injectable drug. This is the main reason it takes time.”
Hetero’s goal is to produce 100,000 vials of this drug by mid-July.
At the same time, DCGI also approved the Remdesivir version of Mylan. Gilead, along with Cipla, Hetero, and Mylan, also signed licensing agreements with Jubilant Life Sciences, Dr. Reddy’s, Zydus Cadila, and Syngene to produce and distribute Remdesivir in India and 126 other countries.