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DCGI writes to states/UTs to step up enforcement to stop hoarding, overcharging of Remdesivir

Many family members of COVID-19 patients have brought black marketing and overcharging of antiviral drug Remdesivir to the notice of DCGI. The family members complained the Remdesivir is being sold above maximum retail price (MRP) and in some cases as high as over 10 times.

April 12, 2021 / 08:37 PM IST
Cipla launched remdesivir under brand name Cipremi at Rs 4,000 per vial in July

Cipla launched remdesivir under brand name Cipremi at Rs 4,000 per vial in July

 
 
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The Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) VG Somani wrote to the States and Union Territories to step up enforcement drive to stop hoarding, black marketing and overcharging of COVID management drug Remdesivir.

Many family members of COVID-19 patients have brought black marketing and overcharging of antiviral drug Remdesivir to the notice of DCGI. The family members complained the Remdesivir is being sold above maximum retail price (MRP) and in some cases as high as over 10 times.

"In light of reports of shortages of Remdesivir, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, has communicated to the State and UTs regarding various steps initiated, including direction already given to enforcement staff, drug inspectors to verify stocks and check other malpractices and also take other effective action to curb hoarding and black marketing," the DCGI said in his letter on April 10.

He also asked States and UTs to instruct enforcement staff immediately to keep strict vigil, especially in sensitive places and to take stringent action against hoarding, black marketing and overcharging of Remdesivir, by conducting the special drives of monitoring and investigation, so that any such incidence for the drug is prevented.

This is the second letter DCGI wrote this month to states on Remdesivir.

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A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

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There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

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Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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Several cities such as Bhopal, Indore and Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh, Ahmedabad, Surat and Rajkot in Gujarat and Mumbai and Thane are reporting shortage of Remdesivir injections.

Remdesivir injection is given to hospitalised COVID-19 patients. India is seeing a second wave of COVID-19 pandemic. On Sunday, the country reported 1,68,912 new cases. It is estimated that at least 10 percent of COVID-19 patients may require hospitalisation and are eligible to receive Remdesivir.

Depending on brands, each Remdesivir injection costs anywhere between Rs 900 to Rs 3,000. But the drop in COVID-19 cases, have led companies to either cut production or divert the supplies to exports. Around half a dozen companies, including Cipla, Hetero, Zydus Cadila, Dr Reddy's, Mylan and Jubilant are manufacturing the drug under license from Gilead Life Sciences.
Viswanath Pilla is a business journalist with 14 years of reporting experience. Based in Mumbai, Pilla covers pharma, healthcare and infrastructure sectors for Moneycontrol.
first published: Apr 12, 2021 08:37 pm

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